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Claremont, 23 Clarendon Road 
Telephone (0113) 245 7910 


I ^93 


The Most Reverend the LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK 
The EARL OF SCARBOROUGH, l.l., m.a. 

The Rt. Reverend and Rt. Hon. THE LORD BLANCH, P C., m.a. 


C.E. YOUNG, Esq., c.b.e.j.p., ll.d. 

H. FATTORINI, Esq., b.a.b.e. j.p., ll.d. 

Officers and Council 1999-2000 

P.V. ADDYMAN, d.Sc. D.Univ., m.a., f.s.a., m.i.f.a. 

G.C.F. FORSTER, b.a., f.s.a., F.R.Hist.s. 
J. TAYLOR, M.A., F.R.Hist.s. 

Honorary Vice-Presidents 

R.M. BUTLER, m.a., Ph D., f.s.a. 

L.A.S. BUTLER, m.a., Ph.D., f.s.a., m.i.f.a. 


Emeritus Professor M.W. BERESFORD, f.b.a., Hon.D.Litt., m.a. 

J. EE PATOUREL, b.a., f.s.a. 

P.B. DAVIDSON, m.a. 

D.H.T. BROOKE, B.Com. 


P.S. BARNWELL, ba„ m.a., Ph.D., F.R.Hist.s. (York) 

H. BEAUMONT, Ph.D. (Skip ton) 

P.C.D. BREARS, f.s.a. (Leeds) 

M. HABBERJAM, b.a. (Leeds) 

M.F. HEMINGWAY, m.a., Ph.D. (Leeds) 

E. JOHNSTON (Leeds) 

A. KING, B.Sc., m.a. (Settle) 

S. MOORHOUSE, b.a., f.s.a., m.i.f.a. ( Bradford) 

M. MORTON (Leeds) 

All of the following are members of Council ex officio 
Honorary Secretary: M.J. HERON, B.A., Claremont 
Honorary Treasurer: W. BEN I LEY, F.C.A., A.T.I.I., Claremont 

Honorary Joint Editors: C.A. COLLINSON, m.a. & J.M. COLLINSON, m.a., 100 Becketts Park Drive, 
Leeds, ES6 3 PE 

Hon. Lectures Sec: A. MORRISON, 9 Dodgson Terrace, Acomb, York, YO2 5HW 

Honorary Librarian Emeritus: G.S. DARLOW, M.A., A.L.A., The Handsel, Bridge Street, Boroughbridge, 
YO5 9 LA 

Hon. Sec. Historic Buildings: A.M. RUTHERFORD, 49 Rufford Avenue, Yeadon, Leeds LS19 7QR 
Hon. Grants Officer: I.D. Roberts, B.Sc., M.I.F.A., 9 Pondfields Close, Kippax, Leeds, ES25 7HN 

Senior Librarian & Archivist: R.L. FROST, B.A., Claremont 

West Yorkshire Archive Service Archivists: W.J. CONNOR, M.A., Claremont 

S. THOMAS, M.A., Claremont 

D. PAYNE (Leeds) 

C. S. PRESTON, B.Sc. (Scruton) 

D. ROBERTS (Harrogate) 

I.D. ROBERTS, B.Sc., m.i.f.a. (Leeds) 

M. SCHOLEY (Leeds) 

B. SITCH, B.A., M.A., A. m.a. (Leeds) 

W.N. SLATCHER, m.a., m.Sc., Ph.D. (Rochdale) 

E. C. WAIGHT (Harrogate) 

S. WRATHMELL, b.a., Ph.D., F.S.A. (Car leton-in- Craven) 

Hon. Secretaries of Sections 

Record Series : C.C. WEBB, Borthwick Institute of Historic Research, University of York, St Anthony’s Hall, York, 
YOi 2PW 

Parish Register Section: Mrs F. HARRISON, B.A., 13 Regent Park Avenue, Leeds, ES6 2ALI 

Wakefield Court Rolls Section: K. EMSLEY, M.A., ll.M., A.C.I.S., F.R.S.A., 34 Nab Wood Drive, Shipley, Yorks BD18 4EE 
Prehistory Research Section: T.G. MANBY, M.A., F.S.A., F.M.A., 43 Meadow Drive, Market Weighton, York YO4 3QG 
Roman Antiquities Section: P.R. WILSON, B.A., Ph.D., M.I.F.A., F.S.A., Stables Cottage, 331 Havant Rd, Earlington, 
Portsmouth PO6 iDD 

Medieval Section: B. WASSELL, Ph.D., 7 Heddon Street, Leeds LS6 4EN 

Local History Study Section: Mrs E. EONGBOTTOM, 75 Chatsworth Road, Pudsey, Leeds, ES28 8JX 
Industrial History Section: D. CANT, M.A., 3 Middle Hathershelf, Euddendenfoot, Halifax, HX2 6JO_ 

Family History & Population Studies Section: L. RAISTRICK, B.Ed, M.Ed., 303 Broad Lane, Leeds, ES13 3BL 
Aerial Archaeology: J. A. POCOCK, Dept of Arch. Sciences, Bradford University 

Representatives of Groups and Affiliated Societies 

Forest of Galtres Society: V. TAYLOR 
Victorian Society: To be appointed 

Pontefract & District Archaeological Society: To be appointed 
Huddersfield & District Archaeological Society: To be appointed 
Olicana Historical Society: K. MASON 

Yorkshire Architectural & York Archaeological Society: R.M. BUTLER, M.A., Ph.D., F.S.A. 

Doncaster Group: To be appointed 
Harrogate Group: D. ROBERTS 

East Riding Arch. Research Trust: T.G. MANBY, M.A., f.s.a., f.m.a. 

Wesley Historical Society , Yorkshire Branch: R. STRONG 
Upper Wharfedale Field Society: H. BEAUMONT Ph.D. 

Fast Riding Archaeological Society: To be appointed 





















(i5 6 3” l6 oo) 185 



















Ann Alexander has taught local history for many years and has done research into early enclosure in 
East Yorkshire. 

Dr Michael Bishop is a freelance writer, publisher and archaeologist who specialises in the Roman 

Spence Galbraith is a retired medical epidemiologist interested in public health history. He was the 
founder and first director of the Communicable Diseases Surveillance Centre of the Public Health 
Laboratory Service at Colindale, London, responsible for the surveillance and control of infectious 
diseases in England and Wales. 

Stuart Harrison is a freelance archaeologist and architectural historian who runs his own business, 
Ryedale Archaeological Services. 

David Heslop is the County Archaeologist for Tyne and Wear. 

Mark Holley is a post-graduate student in underwater archaeology at Edinburgh University, carrying 
out research into the crannogs of Western Scotland. 

Paul Hughes is a master mariner, aviator and mountaineer. He is currently transcribing nineteenth 
century correspondence on tides. 

Dr Roger Jacobi is a research associate of the Department of Palaeontology at the Natural History 
Museum and temporary Curator at the British Museum. His interests are British late Pleistocene 
archaeology and palaeontology. 

Dr Peter Marshall is lecturer in history at the University of Warwick. He is the author of The Catholic 
Priesthood and the English Reformation (Oxford 1994) and editor of The Impact of the English Reformation 
(London 1997). 

Roger Martlew is lecturer in archaeology at the School of Continuing Education, University of Leeds 
and deputy director of the University’s Centre for Geoarchaeological Studies. 

Herbert Masterson is a member of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society and of the Upper Wharfedale 
Field Society. He was a regional chief officer of the Central Electricity Generating Board and a board 
member of the Yorkshire Water Authority. 

Dr Christopher Norton is a senior lecturer in the Centre for Medieval Studies and the History of 
Art Department at the University of York. 

David Palliser is professor of medieval history at the University of Leeds, editor of the Cambridge 
Urban History of Britain Vol. 1 (6 50-1 540) and president of the Yorkshire Architectural and York 
Archaeological Society. 

Brian Sitch, formerly assistant Keeper of Archaeology with Hull Museums and Galleries, is now 
Curator of Archaeology for Leeds Museums and Galleries. He is interested in Roman archaeology and 
the history of collecting. 

David Shotter is senior lecturer in Roman History at Lancaster Lhiiversity; he has published widely 
in the fields of Roman imperial history, the Roman occupation of Northern Britain and Roman numis- 
matics and their application to studies of occupation patterns at Roman sites. 

Valerie Taylor is a local historian whose area of research is centred on Easingwold, North Yorkshire. 
Her study led to a certificate in local history, followed by an M.A., both from the University of York. 

Blaise Vyner is a museums, archaeology and heritage consultant; he was formerly Archaeology, Arts 
and Heritage Officer for Cleveland County Council. Currently editor of the Archaeological Journal , he 
has written and edited numerous papers and books on archaeological and heritage topics. 

The Society wishes it to be understood that responsibility for opinions and material contained in articles, notes and 
reviews is that of the authors, to whom any resulting correspondence should be addressed. 

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol.yi, 5999 



By Bryan Sitch and Roger Jacobi 

During the 1920s two archaeological specimens in a private museum in Holderness 
caused one of the most acrimonious disputes in East Yorkshire archaeology. The Director 
of Hull Museums, Thomas Sheppard, and an amateur archaeologist from Sheffield, 
A. Leslie Armstrong, disagreed strongly over the authenticity of two notched bone points 
in the possession of the Morfitt family of Atwick. Two committees of enquiry met to 
consider whether the points were authentic but the outcomes were inconclusive or 

The argument raged throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s. Nowadays the bone 
points are generally regarded as genuine. To the writers’ knowledge, however, a detailed 
study of the controversy has never before been attempted and now that more biographical 
information is available it may be possible to shed more light on the controversy. The case 
against the so-called Holderness harpoons will be examined in detail, paying particular 
attention to the questions raised by Thomas Sheppard. 

The origins of the controversy date back to the early years of the twentieth century. 
The background has been explored in other publications (Sitch 1988, 1991, 1993) and 
it will suffice here to summarise relevant details. The Morfitts moved to the village of 
Atwick in 1890, after William (1831 — 1923), the head of the family, retired from his 
business as baker and supplier of ships’ provisions in the port of Goole. That his business 
had been a success is clear from the fact that he was able to bring his sons Beaumont 
(1856-1929) and Aaron (1863-1928) and daughters Margaret (1855-1905) and 
Charlotta 2 (1865-1914) to share his retirement. For much of the next 30 years, the family 
spent its leisure time beachcombing and collecting archaeological, geological and natural 
history specimens for the ‘East Coast Museum of Antiquities’ at Charlotte’s Cottage 
in Atwick. 

Coastal erosion in Holderness regularly reveals large numbers of archaeological sites 
and antiquities, and geological specimens such as fossils. The soft boulder clay of the 
Skipsea till is eroded at the rate of two metres or more per annum, making Holderness 
one of the fastest receding coastlines in North-West Europe (Kent 1980: 126). This coastal 
erosion also disturbs the sites of former meres or lakes which were originally created 
about 13,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, when glacial melt-waters collected 
in depressions in the boulder clay (Sheppard 1957). There were once hundreds of meres in 
Holderness but over the centuries most have disappeared because of siltation, reclamation 
for agricultural use by man, or truncation by coastal erosion. Today only Hornsea Mere 
survives but the locations of many others are known from the range of evidence collected 
by June Sheppard ( ibid .). 

During the early 1900s two notched bone points were found in the ‘extinct’ mere 
deposits at Skipsea Withow and close to the mere at Hornsea (Figs 2-3). They were 

1 At the time of the controversy the artefacts in question were identified as harpoons but current practice 
has been followed in referring to them as bone points (Wymer 1991: 30). 

2 Christened Charlotta, William Morfitt’s youngest daughter is most often referred to as Charlotte (hence 
Charlotte’s Cottage) or Lottie. 



Fig. i . Skipsea Withow ‘extinct’ mere deposits at the turn of the century. The man standing 
on the right may be Beaumont Morhtt (Sheppard 1903b). 

acquired by William Morfitt who displayed them in his museum at Charlotte’s Cottage 
in Atwick. The specimens were not published at the time of discovery, although they 
were seen by a number of prominent archaeologists and museum curators such as 
Canon William Greenwell (1820 1918), Sir William Boyd-Dawkins (1837-- 1929), Elijah 
Howarth (d. 1938) of the Sheffield City Museum and Thomas Sheppard (1876-1945) of 
the Hull Municipal Museum. Their significance only became apparent some twenty years 
later (Breuil 1922). 3 In September 1922, the Sheffield amateur archaeologist, A. Leslie 
Armstrong (d. 1958), featured the bone points in a paper given to the meeting of Section 
H of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Hull (Armstrong 1922). 
Armstrong compared the bone points from Holderness with similar examples from a site 
at Maglemose in Denmark and concluded that the Morfitts’ specimens were also of 
Maglemosian or mesolithic date, i.e. approximately ten thousand years old ( ibid .). He 
argued that they were some of the first archaeological evidence for Maglemosian hunter- 
gatherers not only in the region but in the country as a whole. 

Thomas Sheppard, Director of Hull Museums, attended the British Association meet- 
ing and caused a sensation by suggesting that the bone points were no older than the 
speaker ( Eastern Morning News 14.9. 1922, Yorkshire Post 18.4.1923, Wright 1990: 76)! 
Sheppard said he had previously expressed doubts about the discoveries (Sheppard 1923a: 
17 1; 1932: 81; The Daily Despatch 1 1.4. 1930) and so he was outraged that the paper read 
before the British Association ‘was unaccompanied by a single expression of doubt as to 
the authenticity of the objects’ ( ibid .). Beaumont Morfitt was present at the meeting and 
was called to the rostrum to give evidence ( Eastern Morning News 14.9. 1922, Yorkshire Post 

3 - An enigmatic reference to the ‘harpoon of a marsh-dweller from darkest Holderness’ appears in an account 
of the Museums Association Conference in Hull in 1913 {Hull Daily Mail 16.7.1913). 





.1 II 


i n 

■r ■ , 1 

Fig. 2. Notched bone point 
Hornsea, formerly in the Morfitt 
collection. Actual length 253 mm. 
B.M. 1929. 1 2-1 9.1 (drawn 
by Julian Cross). 

Fig. 3. Notched bone point from Skipsea Withow formerly in 
the Morfitt collection. Actual length 119 mm. B.M. 

I 9 2 9- 12-19.2. 



14.9. 1922; Read, Woodward and Kendall 1923: 49), but was unable to give a satisfactory 
reply to the questions [Hull Daily Mail 16.4.1930). Sheppard concluded his attack by 
suggesting that a panel of experts be appointed to look into the matter ( Eastern Morning 
News 14.9. 1922). Shortly after the British Association meeting in Hull the following poem 
appeared in the pages of the Eastern Morning News : 

Long years ago — so long — no-one knows, 

There came a man from Maglemose. 

How he got here without clothes, 

From Maglemose to Holdernose, 

Without the frost-bite in his toes, 

Is more than we can dare suppose. 

This man a long bone harpoon throws 
(Just like those found at Maglemose); 

He aimed at an elk (or deer), 

The harpoon pierced it like a spear; 

It no doubt killed that elk (or deer), 

In what was once called Skipsea Mere. 

From long ago, in silt (or clay) 

The harpoon and the elk did stay, 

‘Til Mr Morfitt passed one day, 

With iron rod to find his way. 

The fourteen feet it penetrated 
And then it stopped; or so ‘twas stated. 

The rod touched something firm and bony 
(So different from an object stoney); 

Then Mr Morfitt dug deep down 
The fourteen feet, and got renown 
By finding something quite unknown, 

(Except for one in Hornsea town). 

How he dug, well no-one knows; 

But he found trace of Maglemose! 

He put it in his small Museum, 

Where with the other all could see’em. 

They rested there for years and years 
Until the British Association] appears. 

Then an Armstrong long and weary, 

Gave a most enthralling theory; 

How the man from Maglemose 
In the Baltic, that one knows, 

Came to Atwick (or quite close), 

While in search of food and clothes! 

Then a Sheppard roared like thunder, 

‘There has been a fearful blunder, 

The harpoon from Maglemose, 

Is not old as you’d suppose’; 

And in a manner most indecent, 

Said the harpoon was quite recent! 

Eastern Morning News September 1922, repr. The Naturalist Oct and Nov 1922) 

The poem is great fun and was probably written by Sheppard, who had something of 
a talent for writing humorous doggerel. 



A fortnight after the Hull meeting Mr M. C. Burkitt, Professor J. E. Marr and 
Dr A. C. Haddon met in Cambridge to compare the Holderness points with specimens 
from Kunda in Esthonia. At the time it was claimed that the Committee represented the 
British Association. They concluded that ‘in type, general facies, colour, and in the 
partially mineralised condition of the bone, the Holderness harpoons were identical with 
those from Kunda ... both the Holderness harpoons are genuine antiquities’ (in Read, 
Woodward and Kendall 1923). 

Another committee consisting of Sir C. Hercules Read, Professor A. Smith Woodward 
and Professor P. F. Kendall was appointed by the Council of the Royal Anthropological 
Institute to investigate the matter in Eondon on 6th December 1922. Also present were 
Armstrong, Sheppard, Mr E. N. Fallaise (an official of the Institute), Mr G. A. Garhtt, 
Mr G. W. Lamplugh (a past president of the Geological Society) and Mr H. J. E. Peake, 
president of the Anthropological Section of the British Association meeting in Hull 
(. Yorkshire Post 18.4.1923). The London committee, as it will be called for convenience, 
read letters of support for Armstrong from Sir William Boyd-Dawkins and Abbe Henri 
Breuil, the highly respected French prehistorian, and received written depositions from 
Armstrong and Sheppard. Its conclusion was ambiguous: 

In general we see no evidence in the objects themselves that is conclusively against their genuineness 
... A curious feature is that the workmanship of the barbs is so similar as to point to their being 
the work of the same individual. 

(Read, Woodward and Kendall 1923: 50) 

When the conclusions were published, Armstrong claimed victory ( The Times 1 7.4. 1 923, 
Sheppard 1923a: 174) but Sheppard continued to cast doubt on the points by exploiting 
a series of apparent discrepancies in the evidence. 

He was joined at the end of April 1923 by Elijah Howarth, Curator of the Sheffield 
Museum, who had known the Morhtts for some 40 years. Howarth made a plea for the 
protagonists to take themselves a little less seriously and alluded to a satirical episode in 
Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers (1836-37). This seemed to offer a face-saving humorous 
ending to the affair and Sheppard welcomed the contribution (1923c: 220). Howarth both 
publicly endorsed the good characters of William and Beaumont Morhtt and made a bizarre 
personal attack on Armstrong ( Yorkshire Post 30.4.1923, 16.5.1923). It was impossible to 
support the Morhtts and attack Armstrong. The latter exploited his friendship with the family: 

Surely it is a strange expression of friendship and faith in Mr Morhtt to range oneself upon the 
side of his traducers and to pour out vials of scorn upon the person trying to uphold the honour 
of this veteran of 92, and establish the importance of his long years of patient research! 

(Sheffield Telegraph 1 9 . 5 . 1 9 2 3 ) 

Mindful no doubt of the bad publicity the affair was generating for himself and the 
Sheffield Museum, Howarth wrote a restrained summary of the debate ( Sheffield Daily 
Telegraph 25.5.1923). It was effectively a strategic withdrawal. 

Sheppard’s case was not affected by this and was strengthened when the so-called 
Cambridge committee was discredited. O. J. R. Howarth, Secretary of the British 
Association, said that no committee had been appointed to investigate the Holderness 
points ( Daily News 5.5. 1923). To some it made no difference whether the committee which 
had met in Cambridge was properly constituted or not but Armstrong still felt it necessary 
to disassociate himself from publicity, claiming that a committee of the British Association 
had pronounced the points to be genuine (Yorkshire Post 1 1.5. 1923). Sheppard, however, 
insisted that Armstrong had misled people and criticised the Cambridge committee for 
publishing a report in the name of the British Association as well as questioning its 



impartiality given that one of the members had already accepted the Holderness points 
as genuine (1923c: 219). 

In retrospect, it would be charitable to interpret the press release as an unfortunate error 
rather than a deliberate attempt to mislead but the end result, certainly so far as Sheppard 
was concerned, was that the first (Cambridge) committee’s findings had to be excluded. With 
only the ambiguous conclusions of the second (London) committee left, Armstrong’s case had 
been weakened to the extent that Sir C. Hercules Read (Chairman of the London committee) 
considered it to be ‘not proven’ (Sheppard ibid.). Armstrong replied that it was Sheppard’s 
accusation of forgery that was ‘not proven’ ( Yorkshire Post ) 22.5.1923)! 

After 1923 the controversy seemed to abate, both sides having exhausted themselves 
in the fierce exchanges of April and May. Armstrong complained to William Morfitt that 
he had no time for anything except to scribble replies to the newspapers critics (erycas: 
DDX7/44, 24.5.1922). This ended the first phase of the controversy. After the death of 
Beaumont, the last surviving member of the Atwick branch of the Morfitt family, in 1929, 
the row broke out again. All the members of the Morfitt family in Atwick having passed 
away, Sheppard released evidence which he claimed to have previously withheld out of 
deference for old William Morfitt’s feelings ( Daily Despatch 1 1.4. 1930, Hull Daily Mail 
1 4.4. 1 930). This prompted Captain William Arnold Middlebrook, a long-time family 
friend and one of the executors of Beaumont Morfitt’s will, to pick up the gauntlet and 
in a series of letters to the Hull Daily Mail the old arguments were re-circulated. The 
matter was still receiving attention during the early 1930s when new discoveries (Burkitt 
1932) and different methods of analysis, such as the technique of pollen biostratigraphy 
pioneered by the Godwins, were beginning to cast new light on the Holderness points 
(Godwin and Godwin 1933). 

Sheppard retired from the Hull Museums in October 1941 and died in 1945. The 
destruction of Hull’s Municipal Museum in 1943 was no doubt a contributing factor. 
Sadly, much archive correspondence was also lost in the flames. In 1956 Clark and 
Godwin accepted the Skipsea and Hornsea points as genuine because of their similarity 
with the then newly discovered bone points from Brandesburton (1956). In 1962 
Raymond Hayes felt obliged to write in defence of the authenticity of the Holderness 
points ( Yorkshire Post 13.8.1962). Nowadays the balance of sympathy lies with Armstrong 
but lingering doubts remain (Gilbertson 1984: 6). 

The first part of this essay has served to trace the course of the controversy and 
introduce the two principal protagonists, Armstrong and Sheppard. It has also shown 
that the controversy, which Gilbertson has likened to a fencing match (1984: 40), received 
a considerable amount of publicity over a period of ten years (between 1922 and 1932). 
An attempt will now be made to show that the objects were genuine, firstly by submitting 
them to a detailed examination and secondly by analysing Sheppard’s case, taking each 
of his points of criticism in turn. 

The notched bone points from Hornsea and Skipsea are part of the collections in the 
British Museum: 

... Bequeathed by Beaumont Morfitt, Esq., Atwick, Yorks. Found in 1905 by a workman on the 
site of Hornsea Gasworks under 12 feet of peat and 200 yards from the mere ... 

(British Museum Registration No. 1928. 1 2-1 9.1:) 

The point from Hornsea (Fig. 2) is 253 mm long and has 1 1 notches on one margin. 
It has been broken across the ninth notch (counting downwards from the tip). This break 
probably occurred when the point was posted back to William Morfitt by Boyd-Dawkins 
(Letter from Boyd-Dawkins to Morfitt: 1.6.1920). There is a second, smaller, break 7 mm 
up from the base of the point. 



The point has been made from a piece of straight limb bone from a large mammal 
and scraped to a point at both ends. This scraping has produced a series of discontinuous 
longitudinal facets and a highly variable sub-angular cross-section. Fine parallel striae, 
such as would be left by a flint blade, are very apparent on some of these surfaces. The 
lower end (or tang) appears to have been whittled. 

The notches have been formed by a criss-cross sawing oblique to the point’s longitudi- 
nal axis. Despite a partial overlay by what are probably the residues of casting materials, 
enough of the detail is visible to confirm the technique used (Clark and Godwin 1956: 
pi. II, r.h.s.). It is difficult to term the pieces of bone between these notches ‘barbs’ as 
they do not project beyond the outline of the blank hence the preferred description 
of this artefact as a ‘notched’ rather than a ‘barbed point’. 

Both facets of the tang are scored by oblique slashes. This slashing is far more obvious 
on one face than the other — hence, no doubt, the statement by Clark and Godwin 
(ibid.: 15) that it is scored ‘on one face only’. These slashes are un-patterned and vary 
greatly in terms of length and depth of incision. Their function was presumably as 
roughening to help secure resin or binding (cf. Armstrong 1922: 131, Clark 1954: 127). 
Traces of dark fine-grained sediment or resin remain in several of the deepest slashes. 
Clearly these should be investigated. 

The surface of this artefact is grey-brown and appears almost glazed. Small blackened 
and redder areas are reminiscent of the colour changes associated with gentle heating. 
A single contusion is just the type which might be left by a spade and there are numerous 
small scuffs and chatter-marks all over its surface. 

The bone point from Skipsea is also in the British Museum and there is an equally 
terse entry in the accessions register: 

... Bequeathed by Beaumont Morfitt, Esq., Atwick, Yorks. Found in 1903 by Beaumont Morfitt in 
Skipsea Withow, nr Atwick, under five feet of peat... 

(British Museum Registration No. 1929. 12— 19.2 

Unfortunately the paper label formerly on this artefact (Armstrong 1923a: Fig. 1.3a) 
is no longer present. 

The notched/barbed point from Skipsea is 1 19 mm long and has twelve notches, some 
of which only survive as traces along one margin. It has been broken across at the first 
and sixth notches, or just below the first and sixth barbs, counting from the top (for when 
this may have happened see comment on Hornsea). 

The point has been made from a splinter of large mammal bone. Traces of the longitudi- 
nal grooving necessary for the isolation and extraction remain on one face of the point, 
although largely removed by subsequent scraping. Unlike the point from Hornsea, tip 
and tang are clearly differentiated, the cross-section changing downwards from almost 
circular to more nearly an ellipse. The tang is unscored. 

Armstrong (1922: 131) and Clark and Godwin (1956: 15) have commented on the 
different aspect of the barbing and notching between the upper and lower portions of 
this point. The top eight notches are uniform and relatively deep. They have been made 
by transverse sawing, mainly perpendicular to the long axis of the point but oblique to 
this axis immediately behind/below the slightly hooked barbs. The technique is subtly 
different from that used on the Hornsea point. The four lowest notches (marked by dots 
on Fig. 3) were also formed by transverse sawing, but vary in depth with the topmost 
now only a ‘ghost’. Clark and Godwin (ibid.) suggested that the object might be unfinished, 
while Armstrong (ibid.) thought this lower group of notches to be a hafting aid. 

An alternative would be to envisage this artefact in its present form as the re-cycled 
fragment from a once larger point. The four lowest notches would then be accidental 



survivors from its earlier design with the uppermost of the four now represented solely 
by the bottoms of the two deepest transverse incisions— the remainder having been 
smoothed away. The upper part of the artefact would then be seen as fore-shortened 
and repointed with the provision of eight new barbs. 

The surfaces of the point are a lustrous black. Remnants of casting materials and 
possibly glue adhere to it. A dense black substance is just visible at the base of one of 
the older generation of notches. Since this would have incorporated into the hafted area 
of the re-modelled point it is legitimate to speculate as to whether this could be resin. 
Again this should be investigated. 

Close examination of the specimens does not suggest that they are forgeries. Indeed, 
the fact that the bone point from Skipsea has been re-worked seems like an impossibly 
refined detail even for the most elaborate of hoaxes. Consequently there is nothing in 
the objects themselves which would lead one to suspect that they were not genuine. In 
fact the opposite is the case. 

The remaining section of this essay will consider Thomas Sheppard’s criticism of the 
bone points in order to determine whether he was justified and also to explore his 
motivation for such a highly personal attack on the Morfitt family. 

One of the principal reasons for doubting the authenticity of the Holderness points was 
the fact that at the time of discovery it was claimed that no others were known in the 
country. 4 People such as Clement Reid, Thomas Boynton, members of the Hull Geological 
Society and dozens of other workers regularly kept watch on the exposed peat sections in 
the East Riding yet nothing similar to the Morfitts’ bone points had been found (Sheppard 
1923a: 1 7 1). If authentic, these discoveries were the first mesolithic points to be found in the 
country ( The Times 17.4. 1923, Sheppard 1923b: 80). In fact they were unique ( Yorkshire Post 
14.9. 1922) and as late as the early 1930s it was possible for Sheppard to argue that the 
Holderness points were forgeries because they were still ‘the only two Maglemosian 
implements ever found in Great Britain’ (Sheppard 1930a: 193). 

Sheppard’s criticism based upon the rarity of the points carried considerable weight 
during the 1920s but, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see the Holderness bone 
points as merely the first of a substantial number — no less than 13 in the vicinity of 
Brandesburton (Davis-King 1980) — to be found in the region. Another point was found 
on Hornsea foreshore in 1932 but was not published until after the Second World War 
(Clark and Godwin 1956: 9). Yet another was found amongst ‘moor-log’ dredged from 
the bed of the North Sea on the Leman and Ower banks off Lowestoft (ibid.: 1 1 — 13, 
Burkitt 1932). When he heard about the latter, Sheppard sent the plaster casts of the 
Morfitts’ points, which he had obtained from the British Museum for display in the Hull 
Museums’ fakes and forgeries cabinet (Sheppard 1932: 81), to the Castle Museum in 
Norwich for comparison ( Eastern Daily Press 2.4.1932). More recently still, an antler point 
has been found in a stratified context at Gransmoor in Holderness. This specimen 
(kincm : 1 995. 1 50) is now part of Hull City Council Museums and Galleries archaeology 
collections (Sheldrick, Lowe and Reynier 1997). Of course, the discovery of more bone 
points in Holderness does not necessarily prove the authenticity of the Morfitts’ specimens 
but if these were indeed forgeries then the family was fortunate to have chosen as a 
provenance for its discoveries a locality in which a considerable number of genuine 
artefacts would be found in later years. 

4 - In fact another point had been found near Crosby-on-Eden about 1875 an d compared with examples 
used by the natives of Terra del Fuego (Hodgson 1895). We are grateful to Terry Manby for drawing this to 
our attention. It seems to be an ethnographic import. Some fine bone points from Denmark were in the 
Christy Collection of the British Museum during the nineteenth century. 



Ironically, the apparent absence of mesolithic barbed bone points in Britain at the 
time when the Morhtts first acquired their specimens was used as an argument in favour 
of their authenticity. The London committee, for example, remarked that ‘at the time 
the earlier find was made there was no available example of a Maglemose harpoon’ 
(Read, Woodward and Kendall 1923: 50), i.e. there was nothing that could have served 
as a prototype in the faking of the bone points (see footnote 4 above). Sheppard countered 
this by saying that ‘an illustration similar to the larger harpoon was available’ in Lubbock’s 
Prehistoric Times (Sheppard 1923a: 177, 178). Armstrong replied that the Lubbock illus- 
tration bore only a general resemblance to the Hornsea point (the larger of the two) and 
none whatever to the Skipsea example (in Sheppard 1923a: 176). He added that no 
illustration of a harpoon similar to that from Hornsea had ever been published in Britain 
before that in Man (Read, Woodward and Kendall 1923), but Sheppard noted that 
Armstrong himself had published an illustration of the point in September 1922 
(Armstrong 1922, Sheppard 1923a: 176, Sheppard 1923c: 220, Yorkshire Post 12.5. 1923). 
Technically this was correct but it did not affect the content of what Armstrong had said. 
Sheppard was adept at nit-picking of this kind and it must have reduced many of his 
opponents to distraction. Neither Armstrong nor Sheppard seems to have been aware of 
the Crosby-on-Eden discovery. 

Sheppard also suggested that Munro’s Lake Dwellings of Europe had been the source of 
an illustration from which the forgeries had been copied. Both William and Beaumont 
had seen the books by Lubbock and Munro, although Sheppard was careful not to accuse 
William Morfitt directly. No doubt because of William’s advanced years Sheppard felt it 
necessary to exercise discretion. Armstrong responded to Sheppard’s accusation by saying 
that ‘For any man, however skillful, to have reproduced these and other distinctive 
characteristics, without an intimate knowledge of actual Maglemose harpoons, and before 
anyone had seen a Maglemose harpoon in this country, is impossible!’ (Armstrong 1923a: 

66) . Some ten years later, Sheppard claimed that the harpoons had appeared after he 
lent the Morfitt family a copy of Lubbock’s Prehistoric Man. 

It is difficult to say whether the illustrations in Lubbock’s Prehistoric Times did serve as 
prototypes for the production of the Holderness points. There is certainly a vague resem- 
blance between illustration and supposed forgery but there are also clear differences, the 
elongated ‘nose’ and ‘butt’ of the Hornsea point, for example, whilst its typological 
similarities with barbed bone points from the Baltic and from other sites in England are 
marked, down to the oblique parallel striations on the butts (Clark and Godwin 1956, 
cf. Fig. 4.7 with Figs 3.4 and 5.8). This aspect of Sheppard’s case against the bone points 
is therefore, unconvincing. 

According to Sheppard, one of the most important reasons for doubting the authenticity 
of the Holderness points was their sharp, smooth condition which, he claimed, was 
inconsistent with their being of great antiquity ( Eastern Morning News 14.9. 1922; Read, 
Woodward and Kendall 1923: 50; Sheppard 1923a: 171-72). One member of the British 
Association said that invariably the mineral matter in the bone was dissolved by the acids 
in the peat (Armstrong 1923a: 66). This member was Professor Percy F. Kendall 
(1856-1936), Sheppard’s geological mentor (Versey 1945) but Armstrong later refuted 
this line of argument by drawing attention to a complete red deer skeleton found in the 
peat at Skipsea which was displayed in the Hull Municipal Museum. He himself had 
also taken a pair of pike jaws in perfect condition from the peat and silt at Skipsea (1923a: 

67) . The condition of the points was considered by the so-called Cambridge committee 
(see above), whose conclusion has already been quoted above. The committee felt that 
the condition of the specimens was consistent with them having been found in peat. 
Sheppard insisted, however, that the points ‘had a glossy appearance totally foreign to 



anything from the peat in this district’ (1923a: 175). Armstrong attributed the glossy 
finish to the fact that they had been treated with hot glue for the purpose of preservation, 
though he admitted that this common practice was not the most desirable ( Yorkshire Post 
2 1.4. 1923, quoted in Sheppard, ibid., 176). In fact the points had been treated in this 
way on the advice of the highly respected antiquary, Canon William Greenwell 
(1820 1918). Four hundred of Greenwell’s letters are preserved in the East Riding of 
Yorkshire Council Archives Service in Beverley. In reply to an enquiry from the Morhtts 
about the best method of conservation, Greenwell wrote, 

I can answer from my own experience that the best method is to steep them in a fairly strong 
solution of glue. 

(ERYCAS DDX7/40: 30.4.1903) 

Nor is this the only explanation for the glossy appearance of the points. Other factors, 
such as the general condition of the animal from whose bone they were made, the 
chemistry of the context in which they were deposited, the degree of mineralisation and 
even the possibility of them having been polished by water-borne particles ( pers . comm., 
Dr Andrew Foxon) may have contributed. For example a barbed bone point fragment 
from Brandesburton in the Hull City Museums archaeology collections (kincm : 1973 
57. c) has precisely the sort of shiny surface of which Sheppard was so suspicious. Sheppard 
wasn’t satisfied with the glue explanation, however, claiming that at Hull an expert had 
said he could see steel hie markings on the points (Sheppard 1923a: 178). Jill Cook of 
the British Quaternary Research Section and one of the writers have examined both of 
the bone points in question under a microscope and neither has detected any evidence 
to suggest that they had been shaped by a metal tool. Sheppard’s criticism of the bone 
points on the basis of their condition, therefore, carries little weight. 

The authenticity of the points was also challenged on the grounds of their associations. 
At the British Association meeting in Hull Sheppard said the pits in which the points 
had supposedly been found had also yielded pottery which had been identified by the 
British Museum as part of a Wedgwood teapot ( Eastern Morning News 14.9. 1922; Read, 
Woodward and Kendall op. cit.; Sheppard 1923a: 172)! This was disingenuous because 
he must have known from the earlier clash over the interpretation of the so-called 
Holderness pit-dwellings, another discovery made by the Morhtt family (Gatty 1909; 
Greenwell and Gatty 1910) that no-one had ever claimed that the points were found in 
the pits. Armstrong had only suggested that a mesolithic date for the points might be 
supported by the early neolithic date erroneously attributed to the pit-dwellings by 
Greenwell and Gatty ( ibid .). By questioning the date of the pit dwellings, therefore, 
Sheppard contrived to cast doubt upon the date of the bone points ( Eastern Morning News 
1 4.9. 1 922; Read, Woodward and Kendall 1923). It would appear, however, that 
Sheppard’s views were mis-represented because he later complained about the misleading 
summary of the written statement which was placed before the London committee (1923a: 
169). Sheppard wrote that ‘of course the pits have nothing to do with the harpoons in 
any way, and were merely mentioned in Mr Armstrong’s original paper read at Hull, to 
prove in some way the genuineness of the harpoons’ ( ibid .). More emphatically, Sheppard 
said that ‘the pits which have yielded Roman and later pottery have nothing to do with 
the harpoons and the harpoons were not found in these pits’ (1923b). By Sheppard’s 
own admission, this part of the case against the points is best disregarded. 

As regards the associated archaeological evidence, in his paper to the British Association 
in Hull, Armstrong stated that ‘no other implements or relics of man 1 were discovered 
‘at the same level as the [Skipsea] harpoon’ (1922: 13 1). Although artefacts ranging in 
date from the Late Glacial (Gilbertson 1984) to the Late Neolithic (Piggott and Newbigin 


] 1 

1936) have been collected from Skipsea Withow, no relevance to the bone point can be 
demonstrated. As Sheppard (1923a: 1 7 1 ) shrewdly commented about one of these arte- 
facts, a chipped flint adze of uncertain age (Armstrong 1923a: Fig. 4), they have 'no more 
bearing upon the date of the harpoons than has a threepenny-piece found in the same 

Records of fauna from Hornsea (Breuil 1922: 280-81) and Skipsea Withow (Armstrong 
1922: 131, 1923a: 60) must also be used with caution. The reports of Cervus giganteus, 
( Megaceros giganteus the giant Irish elk), are of great interest, but it would need to be 
confirmed that they are not mis-identifications of moose (A Ices alces ) or the very large red 
deer ( Cervus elaphus which is becoming increasingly familiar from the British Late Glacial. 
Although reindeer ( Rangifer tarandus ) were, of course, present in the Late Glacial they also 
survived into the earliest part of the Post Glacial (Clutton-Brock and Burleigh 1983). 
There is no clear evidence for associating either point with a prey animal, as at High 
Furlong near Blackpool (Hallam et al. 1973). 

It is interesting that the relevant entry in William Morfitt’s notebook indicates the 
presence nearby of remains of some kind of deer (‘Mazawattee Diary’ 27.1 .1902). William 
Greenwell was told that these were red deer and Irish elk (erycas: ddx 7/40, 30.4.1903) 
and Armstrong (1922: 131) states that the Skipsea point was found beneath ‘the complete 
skeleton of a female elk [Cervus giganteus)' . Gilbertson mistakenly places the point above the 
elk (1984: 38). Unfortunately the skeleton itself is no longer extant. Most of the Morfitt 
collection was transferred to the Yorkshire Museum in 1951 but some material was 
dispersed amongst Holderness schools. It is not known what became of the elk skeleton 
from Skipsea and it is now impossible to verify the identification of the remains. 

Pollen analysis by H. and M. E. Godwin (1933) and a wide range of environmental 
studies undertaken and co-ordinated by Gilbertson (1984) have demonstrated the exist- 
ence of Early Post Glacial and Eate Glacial sediments at Skipsea Withow. Even by 1932, 
the time of the earlier investigation, coastal erosion had already ‘left the harpoon site 
some yards seaward’ (Godwin and Godwin 1933: 39). With the loss of the actual find- 
spot these studies cannot contribute directly to establishing the age of the bone point. 

It has already been demonstrated that Sheppard took mischievous delight in exploiting 
apparent discrepancies in the information provided by Armstrong. With regard to the 
bone points, he commented that ‘the whole story of their discovery changes as often as 
it is repeated’ [Eastern Morning News 19.4. 1923). It is hard not to sympathise to some 
extent with this. In the articles which summarise what he had said in Hull in September 
1922, Armstrong wrote that the Skipsea point ‘was found in September 1903 ... It was 
resting in silt under five feet of overlying peat. Above it ... was the complete skeleton of 
a female elk’ (1922: 1 3 1 ). Beaumont Morfitt’s statement from the rostrum is only known 
from contemporary newspaper reports and from what Sheppard claimed he had said, e.g.: 

Mr Morfitt was probing the peat with an iron rod, and at a considerable depth found solid objects, 
and on digging down to them he discovered the harpoon and a skeleton of an elk.’ 

( Yorkshire Post 18.4.1923) 

They were 12 or 14 feet down and lying on boulder clay. 

( Yorkshire Post 1 4 . 9 . 1 9 2 2 ) 

The apparent discrepancy in the stratigraphical contexts as related by Beaumont and 
Armstrong featured in the written submission to the Eondon committee (Read, Woodward 
and Kendall 1923: 49; Sheppard 1923a: 173). Yet examination of contemporary news- 
paper reports does not show conclusively that Beaumont said he found the point in 
boulder clay. In order to understand what was said and by whom, the various references 



Table i 



‘the harpoon was found ... by Mr B. 

Morfitt ... It was resting in silt, under five 
feet of overlying peat’. 

‘embedded at the bottom of what was a 
lake ... They were 12 or 14 feet down, and 
lying on boulder clay’. 

‘from boulder clay at the base of the peat’ 

‘out of the boulder clay at the base of the 

Armstrong 1922: 131 

Beaumont Morfitt quoted in the 
Yorkshire Post ( 1 4 . 9 . 1 9 2 2 ) 

Sheppard quoting Beaumont 
Morfitt before the London 
Committee Read et al. 1923 
Sheppard 1923a: 173 

to the stratigraphic context of the Skipsea point are tabulated in Table 1 . If the Skipsea 
point was found on boulder clay it was strictly speaking at the interface between the 
glacial till and the lacustrine silt. Nevertheless Armstrong gave a rather unsatisfactory 
explanation that there were ‘holes in the silt in which pieces of peat had been thrust’. 
From this it was deduced that ‘small rafts had been used in prehistoric times ... and that 
the holes had resulted from the penetration of poles used to propel them’ (Sheppard 
1923a: 173, Armstrong 1923: 61). Sheppard was incredulous! Armstrong’s explanation 
does seem improbable but he was desperate to reconcile the evidence as given by himself 
and by Beaumont Morfitt. 

The stratigraphic context of the Morhtts’ points was also used by Sheppard in an 
attempt to discredit the discoveries. If, as he claimed, the London committee had con- 
cluded that the points were the work of one and the same individual and one point was 
found in boulder clay under peat at Skipsea and the other in silt under peat at Hornsea, 
then that individual must have lived for thousands of years because of the difference in 
geological time implied by the two stratigraphic contexts (Sheppard 1923a: 178). This 
argument is open to a number of objections. Firstly the London committee’s conclusion 
had not been anything like as emphatic as Sheppard implied. Secondly, only Sheppard 
said the Skipsea point was found in boulder clay and thirdly the Hornsea point appears 
to have been found in or under a considerable depth of peat. 

Armstrong seems to have suffered from a number of disadvantages during the course 
of the controversy. His greatest weakness was the poor quality of the Morhtts’ manuscript 
notes, which provided Sheppard with a number of discrepancies to exploit. G. W. 
Lamplugh, l.r.s., l.g.s. (1859—1926) visiting the Morhtts’ Museum in July 1908 noted 
that the specimens were badly labelled and that William Morhtt relied mostly on memory 
to provenance them (Hull Museum Geology Department Field Notebook (Glacial) 
No. 7). 5 In this regard the depiction of the Morhtts, father and sons, as gentlemen scientists 
carrying out work of great value on the Holderness coast and recording their findings in 
a creditable manner in special log-books, did not help matters. Although it invited respect, 
it obliged Armstrong to place a high value on what they had recorded. Whilst there is 
considerable archaeological interest in their manuscript notes (Sitch 1991), it must be 
admitted that they are an inadequate documentary record. This may explain Armstrong’s 

5 - We are grateful to Michael Boyd, former Keeper of Geology, Hull Museums and Galleries, for drawing 
this to our attention. 



apparent reluctance to produce the log-books for public inspection. He first referred to 
them explicitly in the Yorkshire Post (2 1.4. 1923): 

The most reliable facts relative to the finding of the harpoon (sic) it will, I think, be granted, are, 
the written statements of Mr W. Morfitt. In these books a careful daily record has been kept of 
observations, and of finds made over a long series of years. The facts as given by me, were 
personally abstracted from those books. The entries occur in proper sequence and chronological 
order, and were set down at the time of each discovery, when the facts were fresh in memory. 

(in Sheppard 1923a: 176) 

Professor Kendall, a member of the London committee, was astonished by Armstrong’s 
statement and asked why the log-books were never referred to during the meeting (ibid.: 
177). Armstrong explained that the log-books themselves were not put before the com- 
mittee except in the form of a written statement which summarised the relevant entries 
(Yorkshire Post 1.5. 1923). Armstrong claimed to have offered to produce the log-books if 
required. Sheppard said that the Secretary of the Royal Anthropological Institute and 
other members of the London committee had assured him that the log-books were never 
mentioned at the meeting (Yorkshire Post 12.5. 1923). Armstrong said that there was no 
call for him to mention them and no questions were asked about them. Nowadays this 
would be regarded as ‘being economical with the truth’. 

Armstrong’s reluctance to put the log-books entries on public view looks suspicious 
and their very existence might be questioned. Some documents and note-books held by 
the Yorkshire Museum may well be the Morfitts’ logbooks. They record finds in date 
order just as Armstrong said but they are not comprehensive and only the Skipsea point 
is mentioned in them. If the Yorkshire Museum documents are the log-books they would 
have done the Morfitts little credit because some notes are written in an almost ‘stream 
of consciousness’ style, with numerous mis-spellings and grammatical errors. The entries 
also gave contradictory information about the dates on which the points were found. 
This discrepancy Sheppard eagerly exploited. 

In his paper to the British Association in Hull, Armstrong had said that the Hornsea 
point was found in 1915 and the Skipsea Withow point in 1903 (1922: 1 3 1 ). The publi- 
cation of the report of the London committee, however, includes photographs of the 
Holderness points, in which the Hornsea specimen is clearly labelled as having been 
found in 1905 (Read, Woodward and Kendall 1923: pi. 4, 4a). Sheppard, querying this 
discrepancy, said that the Skipsea point was displayed in Hull before 1905 (1923a: 1 7 1 ). 
The various references to the dates of discovery of the points are summarised in Tables 
2 and 3. 

Table 2: The Hornsea Point 

Date of Discovery 


1902? (‘three years wrong as 
regards the date the large 
harpoon was found’) 

Sheppard 1923a: 178 

I 9°5 

Armstrong 1923a: 61 

T 9°5 

Read et at. 1923: 49 

! 9!5 

Armstrong 1922: 13 1 

* 9*5 

Yorkshire Post (18.4.1923) 

x 9 r 5 

Sheffield Daily Telegraph (25.5.1923) 

2 4 - I - I 9 I 5 

Morfitt MS note in the Yorkshire Museum 

5 ^^ 9 l 5 

Morfitt MS note in the Yorkshire Museum 



Table 3: The Skipsea Point 

27. 1 .1902 

‘Mazawattee Diary’, Morfitt Collection, Yorkshire Museum 

before 26.4.1902 

Letter William Greenwell to William Morfitt ERYCAS: DDX 7/40 

September 1903 

Armstrong 1922: 13 1. 

* 9<>3 

Read et at. 1923: 50 

I 9°3 

Armstrong 1923a: 60 

T 9°3 

Sheffield Daily Telegraph (25.5.1923) 

r 9°5 

Yorkshire Post ( 1 8.4. 1 923) 

I 9 I 4 

Morfitt Collection MS note Yorkshire Museum 

The date of discovery of the Hornsea harpoon ranges from 1902 (i.e. 1905 from the 
specimen label, less three years according to Sheppard) to 1915, and 1905 is written on 
the specimen label. The specimen label should a prioribt authoritative. Armstrong consist- 
ently quoted 1905 apart from 1915 in his 1922 paper. A manuscript note in the Morfitt 
collection at the Yorkshire Museum reads: 

Found at Hornsea on the margin of the Mere or fresh water lake, 1915- a 10 barbd (sic) bone 
spear made from the bone of sting Ray fish, found whist excavating for a New Gasometer at 
Hornsea 12 [,] 4 (deleted) [,] 16 (deleted) feet below the soil surface in a lacustrine bed amongst 
the roots of sedges and reeds 

5 /- 

January 24 1915 

Another manuscript note reads simply ‘February 9th 1915. Bone spearhead Hornsea 
Mere 5.0’ (Yorkshire Museum Morfitt collection). The date of 1915 seems more reliable 
even than the date of 1905 written on the label, for, unlike the Skipsea Withow specimen, 
the Hornsea bone point is not mentioned in William GreenwelFs letters to William 
Morfitt. Greenwell began corresponding with the family in 1902 and his last letter to 
William was written in 1914. Furthermore, a copy of a letter from Professor Sollas to a 
friend of the Morfitt family, Mr G. Jeff, dated 14th March 1912, only refers to one 
spearhead. It is possible, however, to reconcile the conflicting evidence for the date of 
discovery of the Hornsea specimen if one assumes that the point was found in 1905 but 
only acquired by the Morfitts in 1915. Had the point been acquired for their collection 
in 1905 it is reasonable to suppose that two bone points would have been mentioned in 
the Greenwell and Sollas correspondence in the Morfitt collection. 

We are on much firmer ground with the Skipsea Withow point because there is a 
reference to its discovery in the Morfitts’ ‘Mazawattee Diary 1 dated 27th January 1902: 

I discovered a beautiful bone spearhead North End Skipsea bog, a tooth of a dear (sic) ribs a piece 
vertebrae (sic) and 1 leg bone 

(Yorkshire Museum Morfitt Collection) 

Several letters from William Greenwell refer to this specimen: 

I hope you will excuse me for troubling you with a letter on archaeological matters. I have been 
told that you have found a bone or deer’s horn implement of a type which has not infrequently 
occurred in the cave deposits of the palaeolithic period, probably a harpoon or other instrument 
for spearing fish or an animal. 

(erycas: ddx 7/40:26.4.1902) 

I gather from what you say that the bone harpoon was found under circumstances that imply it 
belonged to the time when the Red Deer and the Irish Elk (Cervus Megaceros) were occupant of 
our country. 

(erycas: ddx 7/40:30.4.1903) 



The most authoritative date for the discovery of the Skipsea Withow point, therefore, 
is 27th January 1902 (Mazawattee Diary entry) since this is supported by Greenwelfs 
letter of 26th April of the same year. This may explain Sheppard’s claim that one of the 
points had been exhibited in Hull before the supposed discovery date of 1905 ( Yorkshire 
Post 19.4. 1923, Sheppard 1932: 83). Sheppard also said that the log-book entries ‘were 
three years wrong as regards the date the large harpoon was found’ ( Yorkshire Post 
24.4.1923). Sheppard must have been referring to the bone point from Hornsea, inferring 
that it had been found in 1902. It is now clear that the Skipsea Withow point was found 
in 1902 and it is possible Sheppard confused the two. The evidence concerning the date 
of the discovery of the bone points is, therefore, problematical. The discrepancies in the 
various dates given by Armstrong and the Morhtts does not necessarily mean that the 
points were forgeries, as even Sheppard conceded ( Eastern Morning News 19.4. 1923), but 
it did muddy the waters considerably. 

The doubt concerning the dates of discovery of the Morhtts’ bone points enabled 
Sheppard to challenge them on the grounds of improbability: 

Are we expected to believe that in 10,000 bc, one man made these harpoons ... and then within 
a relatively few months of each other both were obtained — and by one individual? Such a series 
of coincidences is surely a little too much to swallow by the credulous of us. 

(Sheppard 1923a: 175) 

We now have a much better idea of when the points were found and there must have 
been an interval of at least three years and possibly as much as twelve between the 
discoveries. It is interesting to compare the statements made by Sheppard regarding the 
interval between the respective discoveries (Table 4). 

It is clear that Sheppard reduced the interval between the discoveries in order to make 
his charge more convincing. Our reading of the articles leads us to conclude that the 
London committee had not said emphatically that the points were made by the same 
person, they were not discovered by the same person and they were found at least several 
years apart. There was no improbable sequence of events and this line of argument must 
be dismissed. 

Right from the start one of the most serious objections to the Holderness points, and 
to the Skipsea Withow point in particular, was the account of their stratigraphical context, 
which was both confused and nonsensical. Beaumont Morfitt’s verbal statement from the 
rostrum at the British Association meeting provided Sheppard with more evidence to 
question the authenticity of the points as we have seen (Table 1 above). Sheppard’s 
objection was partly based upon estimates of the thickness of the peat from which the 
Skipsea Withow point had allegedly been recovered, since nowhere on the Holderness 
coast were there deposits of anything like that depth (Read, Smith and Kendall 1923: 
49), Sheppard said that ‘Mr Morhtt was probing the peat with an iron rod, and at 

Table 4 



‘found within two years of each other 1 

Sheppard quoted in the 
Yorkshire Post (14.9. 1923) 

‘within a relatively few months of each other 1 

Sheppard 1923a: 175 

‘within a few months of each other 1 

Sheppard 1923b 

‘within a few weeks of each other 1 

Sheppard 1930a 

‘about the same time 1 

Hull Daily Mail (16.4.1930) 



a considerable depth found solid objects, and on digging down (our italics) to them he 
discovered the harpoon and a skeleton of an elk’. Sheppard commented that it was a 
mystery how Beaumont kept the water out of the hole whilst he dug a hole in the water- 
logged peat (1923a: 172—73, Eastern Morning News 19.4. 1923). Armstrong’s ‘defence’ did 
not altogether clarify the situation: 

Mr Morfitt ... was doing what he had done scores of times before, searching for the bones of 
animals buried in the peat ... It was neither stated, nor intended to be implied, that a hole 12 feet 
deep had been dug to recover the harpoon. The bed of peat is upon the sea coast ... The harpoon 
was found beneath what remained of this eroded peat upon the beach. 

(. Yorkshire Post 2 1 .4. 1 923) 

Sheppard insisted that Beaumont had distinctly stated that he inserted his iron rod 1 2 
feet into the peat (1923a: 178) but Armstrong disagreed entirely with Sheppard’s account 
of the Hull meeting [Yorkshire Post 1.5. 1923). Sheppard continued to question the authen- 
ticity of the Skipsea point into the 1930s on the grounds that it was impossible to dig a 
hole to such a depth in water-logged peat ( Hull Daily Mail 14.4. 1930, Sheppard 1932: 
81). With regard to the Hornsea point, which had been found by a workman beneath 
1 2 feet of peat during an excavation for a gasholder near Hornsea Mere (Armstrong 
1922: 131), a British Association sub-committee satisfied itself that no such bed of peat 
existed and the workmen denied all knowledge of any such discovery (Sheppard 1930a: 

193- 1930b: 259). 

This evidence seems very damaging to Armstrong’s case but careful study of Sheppard 
and William Morfitt’s relationship at the turn of the century has thrown an altogether 
new light on the affair. In view of later events it may come as something of a surprise 
that initially Thomas Sheppard and William Morfitt were good friends. Sheppard must 
first have encountered the family during the late 1890s when he was secretary of a 
number of ‘scientific’ societies in Hull. At this time no society visit to the Holderness 
coast near Skipsea was complete without a visit to see the collection of fossils and archaeo- 
logical specimens in Mr Morfitt’s cottage at Atwick. Sheppard published a short article 
on one of the family’s more spectacular discoveries, that of a pair of red deer antlers 
from the peat at Hornsea (Sheppard 1899). In his introduction to this article Sheppard 
lavished praise upon the family: 

The excellent work being done by Mr William Morfitt, of Atwick, and his two energetic sons, is 
well known to our members, and those who had the good fortune to be present at the excursion 
to Atwick, in June last, will not soon forget the extent of the collection... 

(ibid.: 22) 

He described the location of the finds, the circumstances of discovery and quoted the 
dimensions. He also gave the height of the find-spot relative to the top of the cliffs, which 
acted as a rough and ready datum point: 

The peat from which they were obtained is about fourteen feet below the top of the present cliff. 


Sheppard used the same convention in recording the position of wooden remains at 
Sand-le-Mere (1900: 76). It is not clear whether Sheppard adopted this practice from 
the Morfitt family or vice versa. This method of measuring the level of archaeological 
material would not be used today. An understanding of the recording techniques used 
by the Morfitts and Sheppard at this time may well provide explanation for what may 
seem improbable. In order to appreciate the significance of this we need to consider 
where Beaumont was standing when he discovered the Skipsea Withow point. 



Sheppard’s criticism of the Skipsea Withow specimen was based upon the assumption 
that Beaumont Morhtt was standing on top of the cliff and digging down ( Yorkshire Post 
18.4.1923, 24.4.1923; Eastern Morning News 19.4. 1923; Hull Daily Mail 14.4. 1930, 
16.4.1930; Sheppard 1932: 81). Of course this would have been impossible if the point 
was 12 or 14 feet down as Beaumont had said. Equally it would have been difficult to 
excavate a hole of any considerable depth standing on the foreshore. Beaumont, however, 
could have probed the layers of peat exposed on the foreshore with his iron ‘pricker’ and 
dug shallow holes without the risk of flooding. Armstrong’s statement in the Yorkshire Post 
of 2 1.4. 1923 seems to confirm this explanation: 

It was neither stated nor intended to be implied, that a hole 12 feet deep had been dug. The bed 
of peat is upon the sea coast, and was at that point greatly eroded by the sea. The harpoon was 
found beneath what remained of this eroded peat upon the beach. 

The layer of peat in which the point was found was still 12 or 14 feet below the top 
of the cliff but it was on the foreshore, coastal erosion having removed the layers above. 
In these circumstances excavation to a shallow depth was still feasible but the find-spot 
would still be 12 or 14 feet below the top of the cliff. There is also another scenario 
which appears to have been completely overlooked in previous consideration of this 
problem. Beaumont could have been probing the peat layers exposed in the cliff section 
horizontally (plate 1). In both cases the layers examined would be at some considerable 
depth relative to the top of the cliff but recovery of artefacts would have been facilitated 
by the fact that coastal erosion had both removed the bulk of the overlying deposits and 
enabled inspection of still-stratified contexts in the cliff section. Beaumont seems to have 
been in the habit of probing the layers thus exposed with his iron ‘pricker’ whilst searching 
for archaeological remains. A photograph of the Skipsea Withow in the early 1900s 
makes the distinction clear (Sheppard 1903b: 25; our Fig. 1). Giving the depth of the 
finds relative to the top of the adjacent cliff was simply the Morfitts’ recording convention. 
It is surprising that Sheppard himself should have used and acknowledged that convention 
at the turn of the century! It is difficult to believe that Sheppard had forgotten this and 
his objection to one of the points on the grounds of the impracticability of its recovery 
is hard to understand. 

As for the Hornsea point, the workmen’s denial that any such discovery had been 
made there is understandable if Beaumont had paid five shillings for it, as is shown by 
the manuscript note in the Yorkshire Museum quoted above. Workmen traditionally had 
always been a rich source of cabinet specimens for antiquaries with plenty of cash. Indeed 
during the construction of the railway station in York, in the nineteenth century, antiquar- 
ies were banned from the site because the various rival collectors competed for the 
workmen’s attention and interfered with the progress of work. Unscrupulous workmen 
in London had even satisfied the wishes of gullible collectors by making and selling their 
own fake antiquities. Some forgeries, such as the notorious ‘Billies and Charlies’ and the 
work of ‘Flint Jack’ fooled many museum curators for a time, though ironically they are 
now the subject of legitimate museological research in their own right. Sheppard had a 
particular interest in fakes and forgeries (1908) and his attitude to the Morfitts’ bone 
points may have been conditioned by his public persona as the wily curator, who obtained 
genuine specimens for the public collections by hook or by crook but was never himself 
duped by the trickery of others. 

The testimony of the site foreman and a consulting engineer that no peat layers of 
any thickness were found during the construction of the Hornsea Mere gasholder ( Hull 
Daily Mail 14.4. 1930; Sheppard 1930b) seems to be an unsurmountable obstacle. It is 
interesting to read, therefore, that when the Hull Scientific and Field Naturalists’ Club 



visited Hornsea Mere in August 1902, it saw a deep section exposed during the erection 
of a new gasometer. That section comprised beds of gravel, shell marl and peat and the 
person who recorded this information was none other than the Hull curator, Thomas 
Sheppard (Sheppard 1902)! This throws a rather sinister light on his motives, although 
it would be charitable to think that he had simply forgotten about this evidence by the 
time of the controversy. 

Consideration of the numerous objections that Sheppard raised suggests that none of 
them, in themselves, were really damaging, since they depended to a certain extent on 
subjective interpretations of what had been said or on superficial discrepancies in the 
information. Sheppard’s motivation is open to question but it is clear that he was absol- 
utely convinced that the points were forgeries. The London committee acknowledged 
this in its conclusions: 

Mr Sheppard appears to have had strong grounds for doubting the authenticity of the harpoons, 
but the evidence on which his judgment is based is no longer verifiable. 

(Read, Woodward and Kendall 1923: 50) 

At first glance it is not at all clear what was the nature of this evidence which was 'no 
longer verifiable’ and this weakness in Sheppard’s case was exploited by Armstrong 
(. Yorkshire Post 4.5.1923). Armstrong alludes to it in his 1923 paper: 

Mr Sheppard’s charge of forgery is based upon certain evidence said to have been given him by 
a person now dead — therefore unverifiable. 

(Armstrong 1923a: 66) 

The identity of this person was only revealed in September 1929 in a letter from 
Sheppard to Hazzledine Warren: 

The Maglemose harpoons were made by Mr B. Morfitt in the presence of his sister who was 
spending a weekend with Mrs Sheppard and I and told us how it was done. 

(reproduced in Gilbertson 1984: 39) 

The following year Sheppard wrote: 

Now that the father has passed away there is no need to keep back this evidence. Miss Morfitt, a 
sister now deceased, told the present writer in the presence of others that her brother Beaumont 
made these harpoons from the leg bone of a Red Deer. 

(Sheppard 1930a: 193) 

The sister Sheppard referred to was Charlotte, who died in 1914. Her weekend away 
with the Sheppards must have taken place in or before 1903, when Thomas Sheppard 
quarrelled with her father (Sitch 1993). Sheppard claimed that he had kept back this 
information out of sensitivity to old William Morfitt’s feelings but Sheppard’s revelation 
only came after the death of Beaumont in 1929, six years after that of William. As ‘Eolith’ 

The other evidence from this your contributor would have been more valuable had it been brought 
forward before the death of the parties directly concerned. How can it be regarded as a serious 
contribution to the controversy now that the alleged incidents are no longer verifiable? 

We are told that, at the enquiry referred to, the Director of the Hull Museums out of regard for 
the feelings of Mr Morfitt withheld vital information. Mr Sheppard’s sense of propriety is really 
too subtle. 

[Hull Daily Mail 16.4.1930) 

Seventy years after the event it is difficult to be sure what was said and by whom. On 
the one hand Sheppard claimed there was another witness (presumably Mrs Sheppard) 



to the conversation with Charlotte so the allegation should be taken seriously; on the 
other hand Charlotte and her father were particularly close and it is inconceivable that 
after William Morfitt and Sheppard’s row in 1903 she should have been so disloyal as 
to give Sheppard highly sensitive information about her own brother. A number of 
possibilities are suggested: either she told the truth and the Skipsea point at least is a 
forgery, or it is authentic and she deliberately misled Sheppard for reasons that we shall 
never appreciate; alternatively she was genuinely mistaken. Sir William Boyd-Dawkins 
suggested that there had been a misunderstanding in a letter to Armstrong: 

I would further mention a point which may be useful in the investigation of this charge... It is 
simply that one of the harpoons was broken in the post when I returned them to Mr Morfitt and 
that it is just possible that somebody may have seen one of the Morfitts repairing it, and jumped 
at the conclusion that he was forging it. 

(Sheffield City Museum ala 5/5: 20.9.1922) 

Unfortunately the breakage in transit referred to occurred in 1920 (six years after 
Charlotte’s death) whereas Charlotte’s revelation to the Sheppards can only have been 
made in or before 1903. Consequently it cannot have been the repair of one of the points 
which prompted Charlotte’s alleged accusation of forgery. Boyd-Dawkins’ suggestions is 
of value in another sense, however, since Charlotte might have seen Beaumont engaged 
in the fabrication of some other archaeological ‘discovery’ as a practical joke on their 
father and confused this with the bone points. If this had happened before 1903 when 
William Morfitt and Sheppard were still friends, she might well have told the Sheppards. 
Elijah Howarth acknowledged that Beaumont ‘was always fond of a joke, and had a very 
entertaining fashion of humour’ but added ‘there was no shadow of deceit about him’ 
(. Yorkshire Post 30.4.1923). This line of enquiry is highly speculative but if the Morfitts’ 
bone points are judged authentic on all other grounds, it may offer an explanation for 
Charlotte’s alleged statement. The controversy may have stemmed from nothing more 
than a misunderstanding on the part of Charlotte Morfitt. 

There are clear indications that one of the artefacts in the Morfitt collection now in 
the Yorkshire Museum has been fabricated using modern steel tools (letter from Grahame 
Clark to George Willmot 22. 10. 1951). It is a matter for speculation whether this was the 
artefact that Charlotte saw her brother making and assumed to be one of the bone points. 
It may have originated as no more than a private joke between family members but from 
the moment Charlotte shared it with the Sheppards it acquired a whole new perspective. 
It is also possible that Charlotte’s statement was designed to put Sheppard ‘off the scent’. 
Already, within a few years of becoming curator of the Hull Municipal Museum, 
Sheppard enjoyed something of a dubious reputation for his acquisitiveness and the 
Morfitts may have intended to do no more than create doubts in his mind in order to 
pre-empt any desire to acquire them for Hull Museums. Gilbertson has suggested that 
the whole thing was a joke at the expense of the Sheppards (1990: 94). If so, the joke 
back-fired horribly. 

It can now be shown that Sheppard was less than impartial in his review of the evidence 
surrounding the points. He clearly had a long-standing grievance against the Morfitt 
family, dating back over 20 years to the incident in 1903 (Sitch 1993). This grudge 
manifested itself in his repeated adverse criticism of any archaeological discovery with 
which the family was connected and also barely disguised snide references in the Naturalist 
of which Sheppard was one of the editors. Some of this criticism was undoubtedly justified 
but the evidence suggests that Sheppard gave way to strong personal feelings in his 
dealings with the Morfitts and their supporters after 1903. In this sense the 
great Holderness harpoon controversy was a dispute waiting to happen. Whatever the 



discovery, it seems, Sheppard would have found some means by which to cast doubt on 
its validity and the people associated with it. The dispute over the Morhtts’ bone points 
was simply the last and most vehement of a whole series of altercations going back over 
20 years and the reason they generated the greatest controversy was because the stakes 
were so high. The discovery and identification of the first recognised Late Glacial (see 
below) barbed bone points in the country was a tremendous archaeological coup. The 
thought of possessing those same specimens must have been tantalising for Sheppard 
who had a collecting fetish (Sitch 1992). It is not particularly edifying to consider that 
the explanation for the great Holderness ‘harpoon’ controversy should be nothing more 
than a conflict of personalities and petty rivalry. ‘The interplay of egos, reputations and 
career aspirations are also important factors in the problem’ (Bahn 1993). 

In conclusion, this study has tried to document the date and circumstances of discovery 
of the bone points from Skipsea and Hornsea formerly in the private museum of the 
Morhtt family at Atwick. The various grounds on which Thomas Sheppard challenged 
their authenticity may have carried considerable weight during the 1920s but those 
objections do not bear close scrutiny today. There is good reason to believe that Sheppard 
manipulated some of the evidence in order to discredit the Morhtt family, with whom 
he had fallen out some 20 years earlier. Sheppard may have unwittingly held up the 
progress of Late Glacial and mesolithic archaeology in East Yorkshire for a generation. 
Neither do the members of the Morhtt family, principally Beaumont and William, them- 
selves emerge unscathed. Their failure to keep adequate records of their discoveries on 
the Holderness coast made it very difficult for people like Armstrong to argue their case 
effectively but William Morhtt’s relative lack of education needs to be taken into account. 

The dehciencies of the paper record do not, however, imply that the bone points are 
forgeries. There is nothing to suggest that these points are modern. As already noted, 
the technique used to produce the notched edges differs between the two points, and 
there is no reason to believe that they were manufactured by the same individual (Read, 
Woodward and Kendall 1923: 50; Sheppard 1923a). The condition of both points is not 
inconsistent with burial in a fine-grained water-lain mineral sediment. 

No attempt has been made to date the Morhtts’ points. Soaking in hot glue is expected 
to have contaminated them for radio-carbon dating purposes long ago. Barbed and 
notched points are known, however, from both Post Glacial and Late Glacial contexts. 
A number show the distinctive transverse or criss-cross sawing used on the points from 
Skipsea and Hornsea. Two of these have been directly radiocarbon-dated — that trawled 
up from between the Leman and Ower Banks (Burkitt 1932) to 11,749+150 bp 
(OxA-1950: Hedges et al. 1990: 105), and that from a gravel-pit at Sproughton, near 
Ipswich (Wymerr/tf/. 1975) to 10,910 + 150 BP (Gowlett et al. 1986: 1 20). The Cransmoor 
point has been dated between 1 1,500 and 1 1,100 radiocarbon years bp (Sheldrick, Lowe 
and Reynier 1997). Given that it has yet to be demonstrated that such bone points are 
Post Glacial in date, there is no reason not to infer a Late Glacial date for the Skipsea 
and Hornsea points. While we may be proved wrong in this, we are, however, confident 
that neither can be dated so late in the Post Glacial as to be considered a forgery. Seventy 
years after the great controversy and almost a century after their discovery, the last 
lingering doubts concerning the Morhtts’ bone points from Holderness should have been 


erycas: East Riding of Yorkshire Council Archives Service 




The writers are grateful to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council Archives Service for permission 
to quote from documents in its care. Thanks are also due to Julian Cross for the drawings and 
the staff of the Quaternary Section of the Department of Prehistoric and Romano-British 
Antiquities at the British Museum for allowing study and re-illustration of the two bone points. 
Andrew Foxon and Terry Manby commented on early drafts of this paper, though any errors 
which remain are the responsibility of the authors. 


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LIniversity Press. 

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Morfitt, W. 1905. ‘Roman “finds” near Hull’, Hull Times 2.9.1911. 

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Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol.yi, iggg 



By M. C. Bishop with contributions by John Carrott, Peter Didsbury, 
L. J. Gidney, Harry Kenward, J. P. Huntley, and Annie Milles 


A series of ten trial excavation trenches were located in the South Lawn area at Melton, 
East Yorkshire (formerly North Humberside), on a ‘ladder’ settlement site previously 
recorded from aerial photographs. The evaluation was undertaken prior to proposed 
junction improvements on the A63, and the trenches were placed so as to test the results 
of a geophysical survey within the proposed construction corridor. A complex late prehis- 
toric rural landscape of enclosure systems and settlement sites was identified, with import- 
ant evidence of continuity in the transitional period between the late pre-Roman Iron 
Age and the Roman period. This occupation does not seem to have lasted much beyond 
the second century ad, although evidence was found of a medieval timber building at 
the western end of the area examined. 


The area investigated (se 975 264) lies immediately to the north of the A63, to the east 
of Melton village, and north-west of the village of North Ferriby (Fig. 1). Subsequent 
to a desktop study (Dennison 1992) and a geophysical survey (Geo-Services International 
1 993 ), evaluation was undertaken in July and August of 1994 by Northern Archaeological 
Associates in advance of the proposed construction of a grade separated junction for the 
A63 that would encroach into the area known as South Fawn. The evaluation was 
commissioned by Anthony Walker and Partners (now BHWB Environmental Design and 
Planning) on behalf of Acer Consultants Ftd, lead consultants to the Highways Agency. 
The Highways Agency funded the excavations and this publication. 


The Melton site on South Fawn sits astride Cretaceous chalk to the north-east and 
Jurassic clay to the south west, the soils being mainly stagnogleyic argillic brown earths 
or, at the extreme west end of the site, gleyic brown calcareous earths (Dennison 1992). 
A series of trial pits and boreholes showed that much of the area lay upon gravel and 
sand subsoil (Allied Exploration and Geotechnical limited 1994), and excavation sub- 
sequently confirmed this. 


The site lies in one of the richest and best-known areas of the villa economy of Roman 
Britain. It is situated to the south-east of the Roman villa at Welton Wold and to the 
north east of the fort and town of Petuaria at Brough-on-Humber (Fig. 1), which dates 
from the Flavian to late Roman periods, and was a crossing point (probably by ferry) 



Fig. i. Location map. 

for the Roman road from Lincoln to York (Wacher 1969). Excavation showed that the 
villa dated from the later second century ad and was still in use in the late fourth century 
(Wilson 1972; 1973)- However, it was evidently preceded by an Iron Age settlement. To 
the south of Melton, excavations at Redcliff, near North Ferriby, revealed a Romano- 
British coastal site (Crowther & Creighton 1989), a possible entrepot. 

Aerial photographs taken in 1945, 1976 and 1991 revealed elements of the rural 
settlement at Melton and this, together with all other pertinent evidence, was assembled 
in a desktop survey (Dennison 1992), but the most detailed overall picture of the site was 
provided in early 1993 by a geophysical survey (Geo-Services International 1993), the 
results of which were used to determine the locations of the trenches outlined here 
(Fig. 2). 




Trenches were located with specific aims: C, E, G, and H to test intersections of features, 
F to examine an area internal to a major complex of features, whilst A, B, D, I, and 
J concentrated on areas where the geophysical survey provided insufficient information. 
The area to be excavated comprised a total of 1065 m 2 , or four per cent of the area 
affected by the proposed road development at the time, and less than two per cent of 
the total area of the known site (Johnston 1994). 

The 10 evaluation trenches (A-J; Fig. 2) were excavated with the aid of a 360° tracked 
excavator to remove the topsoil and B horizon (where appropriate) down to the level at 
which archaeological remains were seen to be preserved. Thereafter, excavation was 
continued by hand using mattock and shovel, or hoe, spade, or trowel as the need arose. 
In line with a policy of minimum intervention, large features were usually only sampled, 
in order to determine characteristics such as profile and depth and also to provide dating 
material and samples for environmental examination. Pits and postholes were normally 
half- (occasionally quarter-) sectioned, but where large concentrations of postholes were 
identified, only a representative proportion were excavated. After stripping, the exposed 
trenches (and the spoil removed from them) were examined by metal detector and 
anomalies tagged. 


The westernmost trench, Trench A, measured 35 m by 2 m. Trench B was 25 m by 2 m, 
with two extensions, each 5 m square. Originally L-shaped, Trench G, with arms 10 m 
by 5 m, was extended to the south by 10 m by 5 m. Trench D, which was found to 
include no features of archaeological interest, was 1 o m by 5 m with its long axis approxi- 
mately east to west. Trench E was E-shaped with arms 25 m and 15 m long and 5 m 
wide. Trench F was 15 m by 10 m with a northern projection 10 m by 5 m. Trench G 
was L-shaped with arms 15 m long, one 5 m and the other 7 m wide. Trench H was 
E-shaped, with one arm 25 m by 5 m, the other 10 m by 10 m. Trench I measured 20 m 
by 2 m, whilst Trench J was L-shaped with arms 15 m by 5 m and 10 m by 2 m. Trenches 
D, I, and J produced no archaeological evidence other than modern agricultural activity. 



Subsequent to the first geophysical survey, a further one was undertaken in 1995 
(Geo-Services International 1995), covering the area to the north of the ‘trackway’. The 
complex landscape at Melton revealed by the air photographic and geophysical survey 
evidence may be summarised as follows (Fig. 2). 

A trio of east-west linear features (Fig. 2, Components 1-3), a possible ‘trackway’, is 
accompanied by enclosures on the northern side of the northern feature at the western 
extremity (a quadripartite enclosure: Fig. 2, 23 8), with traces of further enclosures to 
the north-west of these (Fig. 2, 19-22). Another was located towards the centre (a triangu- 
lar enclosure: Fig. 2, 4), and one more towards the eastern end (a rectangular enclosure: 
F >g- 2 , 5)- 

This ‘trackway’ is intercepted by another pair of parallel linears (Fig. 2, 6 and 7), on 
a north-south alignment, the easternmost of which appears to continue to the north, 
forming the western side of the triangular enclosure. Two more north south linears cross 
the southern east west linear, the eastern one (Fig. 2, 8) carrying on northwards across 
the ‘trackway’ and the western (Fig. 2, 9) apparently terminating in its vicinity. 





• r-H 


. Geophysical survey results interpretation. 



In the angle formed between the central north-south features and the main east west 
‘trackway’ elements there was a further series of enclosures. A main right-angled linear 
feature (Component io) forms two sides of a rectangular enclosure, with a central internal 
division (Component 1 1). An apparently subsidiary series of linears form f urther enclos- 
ures immediately to the east, composed of two right-angled features (Component 1 2 and 
13), two east-west components (Component 14 and 15), and a north south element 
(Component 16). 

At the western extremity of the site, a right-angled corner of an enclosure (Component 
17), together with an internal division (Component 18), lie on a different, north-west to 
south-east alignment that differs markedly from that of the other components of this 

A number of other features which defy the trend of the ridge-and-furrow ploughing 
may be archaeological in origin, notably two parallel linears (Fig. 2, 30), a possible annexe 
to Component 5 (Fig. 2, 31), and a south-west/north-east aligned linear (Fig. 2, 32). 

It was evident that there was an elaborate sequence of activity at the site, but, prior 
to excavation, there were few clues to the chronological sequence of the various 


In the following account of the results of the excavations, group numbers have been 
emboldened (e.g. structure 085). 

Phase i: Pre-Roman Occupation 

The east-west ‘trackway’ that was so prominent on the aerial photographs and geophysi- 
cal survey was only manifested archaeologically as parallel ditches, no traces of a surface 
or indications of use (such as wheelruts) having survived where it was examined. 

At the northern end of Trench A, 1.8 m of a U-sectioned slot or gully (020), 0.52 m 
wide and 0.26 m deep, was exposed (Fig. 3). Ten metres south of this, the U-sectioned 
slot 018 (0.5 m wide and 0.35 m deep) crossed the trench from east to west for 1.8 m 
and was cut by a north-west to south east ditch (012), part of Component 1 7 (see below). 
Slot 018 was Component 2 of the east-west trackway, whilst 020 was Component 1. 

The ‘trackway’ was also examined in Trench H. There, an east-west, U-sectioned, 
ditch (514), 0.8 m wide and 0.65 m deep, was connected to 504 (Component 5, the 
easternmost enclosure) by a narrow gully (perhaps a lockspit) and no precise relationship 
could be established between the two features, suggesting (but hardly proving) contempor- 
aneity (Fig. 9). Immediately south of 514 was another ditch (512), this time V-sectioned 
and 0.6 m wide by 0.32 m deep, which was paralleled by another (530), U-sectioned and 
0.6 m wide by 0.23 m deep, both also on an east to west orientation. Some 1 1 m away, 
in the southern extremity of the trench, ditch 507 was 1.85 m wide and 0.8 m deep with 
a similar profile. Features 512, 514 and 530 can be equated with Component 1 and 507 
with Component 2 of the ‘trackway’. 

In Trench E (Fig. 6) there was a north-south oriented U-sectioned ditch (217), 2.2 m 
wide by 0.8 m deep (Fig. 10, Section 29). Ditch 217 was paralleled 4 m to the east by 
203/225, another V-sectioned ditch (Fig. 10, Section 28), 3.75 m wide and 2 m deep. 
Ditch 225 was found to have six fills, and none of these could be positively identified as 
a re-cut. A small U-sectioned ditch (219), exposed over a 1 m length, 0.3 m wide and 
0.26 m deep, was found to run parallel to the lip of 21 1, some 4 m to the south, although 
the nature of its relationship with 203/ 225 was unclear. Ditch 215 can be identified with 
Component 6, whilst 203/225 was Component 7. 



Fig. 3. Plan of Trench A. 



r •-) 

Fig. 4. Plan of Trench B. 

057 ^ 1 

1 0 1 2 3 4 5m 

1 . I 
I 43 055 I 
I 1 

. 3rr 

053 u.^ | 

In Trench F, a major complex of postholes and pits (Fig. 7) revealed at least two 
circular huts (801 and 802). No relationships could be determined between any of the 
elements 801, 802, and the (presumably) later 810 (see below), which have been isolated 
purely on the grounds of alignment and positioning. However, the proximity of circle 
801 to 802 suggests that these two were not contemporary. Circle 801 measured 5.5 m 
in diameter and included postholes 344, 324, 322, 360, 362, 320, 372 and pits 887 and 
804. Postholes ranged between 0.25 m in diameter and 0.18 m deep (324) and 0.4 m 
diameter and 0.2 m depth (320), with the larger pits 804 and 887 possibly forming part 
of an entrance porch. Circle 802 was 7.6 m in diameter and included postholes 842, 889, 



827, 885, 875, 846, 851, 848, and 883, as well as pit 807, which may be all that remains 
of an entrance porch. Pit 812 appeared to be central to structure 802. 

A number of features within the groups could not readily be identified as belonging 
to them, and these too may have formed parts of structures, but remain unintelligible in 
the context of the limited area opened for excavation. 

Elsewhere, in Trench C (Fig. 5), a group of (unexcavated) postholes (120) may have 
belonged to a similar roundhouse. 

At the north end of Trench H, a large V-sectioned ditch (504), 1.9— 2.3 m wide and 
1 m deep, running north to south turned 90 to head east to west (Fig. 1 1, Section 53). 
There was a small sub-oval pit (521), 0.8- 1.2 m in diameter and 0.22 m deep, in the 
angle of the ditch and a posthole (528), 0.23 m in diameter and 0.07 m deep, in the 
north-west corner of the trench. The sub-rectangular pit 516, measuring 1.2 m north 

Fig. 5. Plan of Trench C. 



south by 0.25 m east— west, and 0.43 m deep, contained a crouched inhumation (515), 
oriented approximately north to south, which was recorded but not removed. 

Trench H was the one place where some depth of stratigraphy was noted, for beneath 
the A and B horizons (500 and 501 respectively), there was a possible buried B horizon 
(505), which was cut by some of the archaeological features (521 and 504). Pit 521 was 
seen to be covered by a midden layer (502, containing pottery, bone, and marine shells) 
which extended around the sections of the northern end of the trench, before disappearing 
further to the south (probably because it had been removed by ploughing). It was difficult 
to determine for certain whether layer 502 had been cut by enclosure ditch 504, but the 
upper fill of the latter (in the area removed by machine) was very similar in nature and 
content and it is possible that they are both part of the same deposit. No relationship 
could be established with burial pit 512. 

Ditch 504 was part of the sub-rectangular enclosure defined by Component 5 and the 
fact that the ‘trackway’ ditches 512, 514, and 530 (Component 1) appear to respect if 
may indicate that the enclosure pre-dated the ‘trackway’. 

Out of the major linear features, the east to west ‘trackway’, represented by ditches 
018 and 020 in Trench A and 514, 512, and 507 in Trench H, was almost certainly pre- 
Roman, insofar as no Roman period material was found in association with it. Excavation 
highlighted the complexity of this major landscape feature, but the limited nature of 
the examination rendered unwise attempts at detailed phasing and interpretation. 
Contemporary with this was the large enclosure (Component 5), which shows many 
similarities with ‘droveway settlements’ such as Bell Slack (Branigan 1984, Fig. 2.2). It 
should be noted that the line of the east-west trackway is continued by Melton Old Road 
to the west and Melton Road to the east (south of the A63). 

It seems likely that the north-south feature, defined by Components 6 and 7, pre- 
dated the east— west ‘trackway’, given that the Roman period features (in particular 
Component 10) appear to use Component 1 as a northern boundary. 

The presence of a crouched inhumation in Trench H, taken together with other, 
disturbed, fragments of human burials from the central and eastern trenches (and perhaps 
the bone of a buzzard — a scavenger), may indicate the proximity of an Iron Age 
cemetery, since trackways of the kind identified at Melton were frequently accompanied 
by such burial grounds in the pre-Roman period (cf. Dent 1983, 37-38). 

Enclosures to the north of the western enclosure are clearly associated with the east- 
west trackway, but since they were outside the line of the proposed road corridor, these 
were not examined by excavation. 

Phase 2: Early Roman period Occupation 

Trench E contained a 5.2 m length of a north to south aligned U-sectioned ditch (205), 
0.95 m wide and 0.2 m deep, running parallel to — and some 5 m to the west of — a 
much larger V-sectioned ditch (207; Fig. 10, Section 34), 3.7 m wide and 1.9 m deep, 
which was examined at its junction with a similarly profiled east to west ditch (21 1/2 13; 
Fig. 10, Section 36), which in turn was 2.8 m wide and 1.9 m deep (Fig. 6. Both 207 and 
21 1 contained three matching Fills each (232, 231, 206 and 234, 233, and 210 respect- 
ively — primary, secondary, and tertiary) and it was established that 207 and 21 1 were 
contemporary and that 21 1 cut 217. 

Ditch 205 was Component 10. Although the relationship between 203/225 and 219 
was uncertain, 219 could clearly be identified with Component 14. 

Ditch 509 in Trench H (Fig. 9) was V-sectioned with a round base, 1.8 m wide, and 
0.76 m deep. Its secondary fill (508) differed from that of the nearby and parallel 507 



insofar as it had a markedly heterodox fill (a silty loam), those of 507 being sandier. This 
feature could be identified with Component 9. 

A putative rectangular structure in Trench F, 810, measured 8 m north to south and 
at least 10 m east to west (Fig. 7). Postholes and pits associated with this included 837, 
879, 883, 827, 821, 889, 877, and 873; they seem to have been larger to the north and 
south (e.g. 837, 0.8 by 0.64 m) than to the west. Its place within the phasing scheme is 
based upon the assumption that it post-dates the hut circles because of its shape and the 
fact that it was cut by the later Roman linear feature 304/ 383 (see below). 

The central enclosure lay on the eastern side of one of the linear elements of the north 
to south ‘trackway’. There seems to be a pattern whereby large ditches are paralleled by 
less substantial ones (e.g. 207 and 205, 213 and possibly 219) and there may also be 
indications that the major earthworks had been carefully laid out before construction, as 
indicated by the presence of at least one lockspit (noted at the junction of ditches 412 
with 405). The latest ditches had been left open for some time and show a clear pro- 
gression in the ceramics in the successive fills (from pre-Roman through to Roman). 
Within the enclosure, there were clear signs of Roman-period occupation, but this in 
turn overlay several phases of earlier, pre-Roman settlement. 

Phase 3: The Roman Period 

A narrow, U-sectioned ditch, 215, 0.3-0. 5 m wide and 0.27 m deep, was recut on the 
line of 217 in Trench E, but this was the only later activity identified in that trench. In 
Trench F (Fig. 7), a central V-sectioned ditch, 1. 15- 1.25 m wide and about 0.5 m deep, 
oriented north to south (304/383) cut two pits (385 and 387; Fig. 11, Section 55), 1 m 
and 0.8 m wide, and 0.4 m and 0.3 m deep respectively, and was in turn cut at the north 
end by a large circular pit (379; Fig. 1 1, Section 40), 1.7 m in diameter and 0.57 m deep. 
The falls of both 304/ 383 (which was traced for a length of 1 1 m) and 379 produced 
Roman-period finds (including a quern fragment in fill 303). Another, smaller, circular 
pit (310), 1.45 m in diameter and 0.85 m deep, was located only 1 m to the north of this 
(Fig. 1 1, Section 19). There was a 3.6 m long, 0.5 m broad, and 0.12 m deep slot (312) 
oriented north-east to south-west next to 310. Pit 379 also cut a 5 m length of a north- 
west to south-east oriented slot (381), 0.55 m wide and 0.21 m deep, which formed a 
right angle with slot 376 (which was 0.6 m wide and 0.06 m deep, and traced over a 
length of about 5 m). To the north of this complex of features, an east to west slot (389), 
0.4 m wide and up to 0.14 m deep, with vertical sides and a flat bottom, terminated in 
an oval postpit (392), 1.05 m long and 0.35 m deep, containing a postpipe (805; Fig. 1 1, 
Section 47). This clearly formed part of a structure. In the west of the main area of the 
trench, the terminal and 3.4 m of a U-sectioned east-west ditch (306), 0.84 m wide and 
0.32 m deep, was located. 

A large, V-sectioned ditch (405; Fig. 11, Section 31) in Trench G was cut by later 
(medieval or post-medieval) plough activity. Ditch 405 was 2.95 m wide and 1.48 m 
deep and exposed over a length of 7.25 m within the trench (Fig. 8). Its fills (404, 406, 
and 407) were particularly rich in Roman period finds, both ceramic and bone (and 
including a quern fragment: see Table 1 ), suggesting a concentration of rubbish disposal 
activity. On its east side, another ditch (412), irregular in section and 1.8 m wide by 
0.7 m deep, ran towards it at right-angles, with only a small slot 2 m long (possibly a 
lockspit) linking the two; no precise relationship could be established but there was a 
strong possibility that the two features were contemporary, since both lay beneath 404, 
the final fill of 405. A circular pit (420), 0.9 m in diameter and 0.45 m deep, lay on the 
north rim of 412, but the relationship between the two could not be established. 
Immediately north of the pit was a right-angled slot, 418, which measured at least 



i _ - • V ! i 1 'Tr-r-p-, V v. i 

! ; i vTTT | 

. i i 1 i 1 , i -U-li 



Fig. 6. Plan of "French E. 

3.2 m north-west to south east and 5.2 m north-east to south-west. It proved to be 
0.25 m deep. 

The pottery from ditch 405 shows a succession of assemblages in its fills, ranging from 
Claudio-Neronian through to the second century. The animal bone from the same ditch 
was predominantly cattle, but with substantial amounts of sheep/goat and horse too. 
Little other environmental evidence was recovered, but what there was hinted at domestic 
rubbish disposal. 




Melton Trench F 

• GROUP 801 
© GROUP 802 



! I 



• - 



► 362 




0 1 2 3 4 5m 

* 1 ■ 1 » ■ I I 

Fig. 7 . Plan of Trench F. 

Table i: Locations of quernstone fragments 






beehive upper 



beehive upper 











5 GI 




0 1 2 3 4 5m 

Fig. 8. Plan of Trench G. 

Ditch 304/ 383 could be equated with Component 1 1 of the landscape and this 
accorded well with its being contemporary with the central enclosure boundary 
(Component 10), which was itself examined in Trench G as ditch 405. The spur ditch, 
412, therefore formed part of Component 12. 

Phase 4: Medieval Occupation 

In Trench A, the pre-Roman slot 018 (Component 2 of the east— west trackway) was cut 
by a U-sectioned north-west to south-east ditch (012, 0.48 m deep and 2.3 m long) which 
can be identified with Component 17 of the westernmost enclosure (Fig. 3). This was in 
turn cut by a 2.25 m length of the U-sectioned ditch 006 (0.92 m wide and 0.39 m deep) 
on the same alignment. Parallel to these last two features were a pair of slots, 022 to the 
north (U-sectioned, 0.25 m wide, 0.34 m deep) and 024 (U-sectioned, 0.6 m wide, 0.24 m 
deep) immediately south of it. These formed a right-angled junction with a 3 m-length 
of ditch (004), which was also U-sectioned, 0.54 m deep, 0.8 m wide at the top, and 
aligned north east to south-west. At the southern extremity of the trench, a V-sectioned 
ditch, 014 (0.52 m wide and 0.31 m deep), was similarly aligned north-east to south-west 
and exposed for a length of 3.3 m. 

Trench B uncovered the remains of a medieval structure (Fig. 4). Originally measuring 
25 m by 2 m, two extensions were added to this trench, each 5 m by 5 m. A structure 



(085) oriented east to west and enclosing at least 72 m 2 was identified within this area, 
comprising a U-sectioned slot (063), 0.45 m wide, 0.16 m deep, and 12 m long, which 
formed its northern side (Fig. 10, Section 4), and a U-sectioned return to the east (061), 
at least 5.7 m long, 0.4 m wide, and 0.25 m deep; 0.3 m of an eastern spur (089), 
U-sectioned, 0.45 m wide and 0.24 m deep, suggested that this was not a simple rectangu- 

Fig. 9. Plan of Trench H. 



Trench E. Section 28 

Trench E. Section 36 

NE sw 

Fig. io. Sections 4, 16, 28, 29, 34 and 36. 



Trench F. Section 1 9 

SE 3n NW 

Trench F. Section 40 


Trench F. Section 47 

N 805 S 


Trench F. Section 55 

Trench G. Section 31 


Trench H. Section 53 

N S 

Fig. ii. Sections 19, 31, 40, 47, 53 and 55. 

lar building. A western return was probably represented by the U-sectioned terminal of 
a post trench (075), 0.4 m wide and 0.35 m deep. Overall, the structure measured at least 
12 m by at least 6.1 m. Although no postholes or post impressions, as such, were recog- 



nised, feature 063 was characterised by having a series of basal scoops along its length 
which might represent the bases for structural uprights. Within the north-east corner of 
the building was a conical pit (087), which included animal bone in its fill (086), and 
may represent a refuse pit. 

East of slot 061, and running parallel to it, was a 1.8 m length of shallow, flat-bottomed 
gully (059), 0.48 m wide, and 0.06 m deep. Another similarly sectioned gully (057), 0.55 m 
wide and 0.07 m deep, was oriented north west to south-east, whilst a further 1.8 m 
length of ditch (053), at the extreme east end of the trench, also U-sectioned but with a 
concave bottom, was oriented north to south; this was 0.76 m wide and 0.36 m deep. 
Just to the west of this was a circular posthole (055), 0.4 m in diameter (not excavated). 
To the north of structure 085, a semi-circular slot (084) of uncertain function was located. 
This was 0.6 m wide, 0.18 m deep, and traced for a length of 3.5 m. 

Ditch 053 is probably the eastern boundary of the western enclosure (Component 17) 
and the coincidence of alignment of structure 085 may suggest that the two are 

Medieval pottery was recovered from the construction trench of structure 085, but no 
environmental samples worthy of study were produced, other than some animal bone 
(mostly sheep/ goat with some cattle). 

At the north end of Trench C, a 4.9 m length of ditch (103), 0.7 m wide, 0.34 m deep, 
and oriented east to west, was cut by the terminal of another, similarly oriented, one 
(1 1 1; Fig. 10, Section 16), which was 0.57 m wide and 0.32 m deep. The western terminal 
of another ditch (105), at least 2.5 m long and 0.85 m wide (not excavated), lay immedi- 
ately to the south, and this was matched by yet another such terminal (107), 0.54 m wide 
and 0.14 m deep, south of that. All of these that were excavated proved to have flat- 
bottomed, U-sectioned profiles. This series of ditches belonged to Component 17 and 
the fill of 107 contained oats, suggestive of a medieval date. 

An irregularly sectioned north to south oriented ditch (109), 0.5 m wide and 0.15 m 
deep, observed for a length of 3.7 m, terminated in the middle of the original trench. In 
the southerly extension, a U-sectioned east to west ditch (1 14), 0.83 m wide and 0.22 m 
deep, was traced over at least 4 m. 

Ditch 103 clearly pre-dated 111 and, together with 105 and 107, forms the northern 
boundary of the western enclosure. Likewise, 109 corresponds with the north to south 
internal division visible within that enclosure (Component 18), but ditch 114 cannot 
readily be discerned on the geophysical plot. 

The western enclosure (Component 17) was divided internally by Component 18. The 
compound thus created contained at least one rectangular, medieval, building, but there 
were hints that this overlay earlier occupation, probably pre-Roman. There is a remote 
possibility that the medieval material may have entered the archaeological record as 
contamination, but comparison over all of the trenches suggests that this is an unlikely 
interpretation. Certainly, the presence of oats (which are virtually unknown in early 
Roman contexts) in the fill of Component 18 (ditch 107), combined with an alignment 
that does not respect the other anthropogenic components of the landscape (with the 
exception of the ridge-and-furrow ploughing), is strongly suggestive of a similar, medieval, 
date for this enclosure. The possibility must also be considered that this represents the 
eastern extremity of the medieval village of Melton. 


The excavations outlined above have served to provide some indication of the phasing 
of the landscape features detailed by the geophysical survey (Fig. 12). Whilst no traces 
of embankments were recovered by excavation, it is not unreasonable to expect at least 



some of the major ditch features to have been accompanied by upcast mounds of some 
kind. The molluscan evidence suggests that these ditches were not permanently water- 
logged, and that is consistent with the well-drained nature of the subsoil. 

As was the case elsewhere in the region (Dent 1988), there are very evident signs of 
continuity in the landscape at Melton between the late pre-Roman Iron Age and the 
Roman period. Ditch 207 seems to be shadowing the north to south ditches 217 and 
203/225, presumably because they were still visible at the time of its construction. The 
signs of pre-Roman occupation (round houses) being superseded by Roman-type structures 
(rectangular post-in-trench) point towards continuity of function and place. Such indications 
of continuity are especially interesting in the light of evidence from sites such as Blealands 
Nook, Driffield, Rillington, and Garton Slack where it does not appear to have been the 
case (Branigan 1984, 27), whereas Glebe Farm near Barton-upon-Humber, whilst slightly 
later than Melton, does display similar evidence for continuity (Steedman 1992). 

A suggested evolution for the landscape, derived from the phasing and chronological 
information obtained by excavation, might be as follows (although this is almost certainly 
an oversimplification of events and some unexcavated features may be wrongly ascribed 
to a phase; see Figs 2 and 12). 

A north south linear feature, possibly a boundary (Components 6 and 7: the ditches 
seem too large and too close together to belong to a trackway) was superseded by an 
east-west trackway (Components 1 and 2) with dependent enclosures to the north 
(Components 3 and 5; possibly 4 too, utilising the still partly existing Component 7?) 
and there was a cemetery somewhere in the immediate vicinity of Component 5. 

The second main phase of activity of the site saw a new north-south linear (Component 
8) respecting the earlier boundary and presumably fulfilling a similar function. The line 
of the northernmost ‘trackway' ditch (Component 1) was retained and (using the right- 
angled Component 10) an enclosure formed in the angle between it and Component 8, 
with a smaller dependent enclosure to the east (Component 12). 

A further, third, stage in the development of the landscape came with the construction 
of Component 9 and, parallel with it, a small re-cut on the line of Component 6. 
Components 14 and 13 then defined a new, larger, rectangular enclosure within the 
angle of Components 2 and 9, with internal divisions marked by Components 11, the 
north— south part of Component 10 (which appears to have been retained in use here) 
and Components 12, 15, and 16. 

The fourth, medieval, stage (unlike its predecessors) showed no signs of continuity with 
the earlier landscape and this was the enclosure comprising Components 17 and 18. 

The first phase is undoubtedly pre-Roman late Iron Age in date, but the second fits 
easily into the transitional early Roman period, Roman influence being manifested by the 
change from circular huts to rectangular structures in the central enclosure. Other rural 
sites in the region, such as Chase Hill Farm at Killingholme, illustrate the preference for 
rectangular structures in the Roman period (Evans 1991). The third phase may belong to 
well after the arrival of the Romans north of the Humber in the early Flavian period and 
lasted until the middle of the second century. The fourth phase, on the evidence of the 
pottery, can be assigned to between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. 

The economic evidence from the site is, to some extent, ambivalent. Whilst there is 
clearly change in the nature of the pottery used at the site (probably reflecting the 
proximity of the entrepot site at Redcliff), in the proportions of animals consumed there, 
and even in the types of structures used, the theme of continuity appears to be reflected 
in both the molluscan evidence and the overall disposition of the site. The botanical 
remains do not allow a decisive statement about the nature of the land use, whether 
as arable or pasture. The evidence for cereal processing (quern fragments, weeds of 


12. The four suggested phases of landscape development. 

Fig. 13. Hie pottery. 

Fig. 14. The pottery 



cultivation, and chaff) is unhelpful here. Similarly, the absence of coins as a reflection 
upon the character of a rural economy may just be an accident of recovery (and the 
limited amount of the site sampled), but is perhaps worth noting nonetheless. 

It is therefore likely that the central enclosure represents a small Iron Age farmstead, 
which continued into the Roman period. Pottery evidence seems to suggest that it did 
not endure beyond the end of the second century ad, and it may be worth remarking 
that it is at this time that the nearby villa at Welton Wold seems to have been constructed, 
also on the site of an Iron Age settlement (Wilson 1972; 1973). The possibility exists that 
the Welton Wold villa-estate came to dominate the landscape of which the Melton sites 
once formed a part. 


by Peter Didsbury 


A total of 882 sherds of pottery, weighing 8893 grams, and with a total rim eves of 9.16, 
was recovered during the excavations. It can be attributed chronologically in the following 
proportions (according to rim eves): 

Iron Age/Romano-British hand-built wares 24.5 per cent 
Romano-British wheel-thrown wares 7 2 .9 per cent 

Medieval wares 2.6 per cent 

A full and detailed quantification of all the pottery, with individual context dating, is 
contained in the site archive. 


The pottery comprises three main components, i.e.: 

1 . Hand built vessels of types current in the latest stage of the pre-Roman Iron Age 
in East Yorkshire, before ad 7 1 , and continuing in use into the second century (see 
further below). 

2. Gallo-Belgic imports emanating either from the Continent or from southern 
England (Colchester) in the Claudio-Neronian period, i.e. the period between c. ad 
40—70, during which the Humber formed the north -western boundary of the 
Roman empire. 

3. Fully Romanised grey and other wares characteristic of the Flavian to early 
Antonine periods in East Yorkshire, approximately ad 70-150. 

On the basis of the above, the chronology of the trenches may be summarised 
as follows: 

No pottery was recovered from Trenches D, I and J. 

No unequivocally Roman period material was found in Trenches A, B and C, though 
small quantities of hand-built wares were recovered from all these westernmost trenches. 
The limited evidence available suggests that the building in Trench B may have been of 
high medieval date. 

The Trench E assemblage (Fig. 13, nos 1—9) is composed predominantly of hand-built 
vessels, with a little Flavian-Antonine material appearing in the fill of 217. Most import- 
antly, an unstratified Gallo-Belgic flagon sherd of Tiberio-Claudian date was also 
recovered (Fig. 13, no. 1), suggesting the site’s status and socio-political/economic 
relationships with the Roman power in the peri-Conquest period. 

Trench F (Figs 13-14, nos 10-37) appears to be largely Flavian-Antonine in date, 



again with evidence from the topsoil of the reception of Gallo-Belgic imports (Fig. 13, 
no. 10). 

Trench G (Fig. 14, nos 38—53) contains as its main feature a ditch (405), which can 
be interpreted as showing a chronological succession of assemblages, its earliest fill prob- 
ably best regarded as late Neronian/ early Flavian, and its tertiary fill as belonging to the 
first half of the second century. 

Trench H contained nothing but hand-built wares in the ‘native’ tradition (Fig. 14, 
nos 54-61). 

The main groups of wares may now be discussed individually. 

Samian (none illustrated) 

The small amount of samian recovered was kindly identified by Brenda Dickinson. A 
flake from a Neronian to early Flavian form 29 comes from context 303, and two late 
Neronian to early Flavian form 27s come from context 407, the primary fill of ditch 405 
in Trench G. One of these, a 27g, is approximately 50 per cent extant. The latest samian 
is a sherd from an early/ mid Antonine form 3 1 of Lezoux manufacture, from context 
378, probably no later than ad 155/ 160. 

Mortaria (Fig. 14, nos 44, 53) 

The mortaria were kindly identified by Mrs K. H. Hartley. No. 53 can not be more 
closely described than as being of probably second-century regional manufacture. No. 44, 
from the tertiary fill of ditch 405, is probably residual in its context, being a Flavian 
import from North-eastern France. 

Amphorae (none illustrated) 

A single amphora body sherd, probably Dressel 20, comes from context 378. Small 
oxidised fragments from context 303 also contain putative amphora fabrics. None of this 
material has been submitted to specialist opinion. 

Gallo-Belgic wares (Figs 13-14 nos 1, 10, 46) 

These comprise two flagon forms (nos 1 and 10) and a butt beaker (no. 46). All the 
Camulodunum forms found (113, 161, and 163) are also now known from the Humber 
sites of Redcliff (North Ferriby) and Old Winteringham (Rigby 1976, Crowther and 
Didsbury 1988, Didsbury 1990) and can all be contained within the Tiberian to early 
Neronian period. Melton thus joins the limited number of material assemblages from 
East Yorkshire sites which reflect political and trade relations between Rome and the 
northern tribes of the Parish and Brigantes during the generation which preceded the 
Roman crossing of the Humber in ad 71. The most important of these sites in East 
Yorkshire is the site at Redcliff, only some 3 kms to the south-east. The material from 
excavations which took place at Redcliff in the 1980s is currently being studied by Dr 
Steven Willis, with a view to elucidating the significance of the Roman imports found 
there in the generation preceding the Conquest. One of the major difficulties in interpret- 
ation has been that similar high status imports have not until now been evident in 
Redcliff’s hinterland, and it has been difficult to ascertain whether these exotic products 
were somehow ‘consumed’ only at Redcliff itself, or whether they travelled to other sites 
in Parisia, perhaps as a means of articulating the social and political prestige of a tribal 
elite. The major importance of the material under discussion thus lies in the fact that it 
comes from an inland site which shows where at least some of the material received 
through the entrepot at Redcliff was apparently travelling. In this regard, the difference 
between the pottery assemblages at the two sites are likely to be more interesting than 



the similarities. A principal question, though it can hardly be resolved at present, must 
concern the reasons why the Gallo-Belgic terra nigra and terra rubra which are so common 
at Rcdcliff are entirely absent from Melton, when other imports are common to both sites. 

Late Iron Age/early Roman hand-built vessels 

The rims of the jars from these assemblages are most suggestive of forms current in the 
latest pre-Roman Iron Age in south-east Yorkshire, particularly those basic shapes which 
Challis and Harding (1975, p6ff ) regard as most characteristic of the period. Perhaps 
most common are examples of their jars with upright, externally thickened rims, e.g. Figs 
13-14, nos 3, 29, 48 and 54. The finger-tipping and slashed decoration which also occurs 
on a number of these vessels (Figs 13-14, nos 2, 55, 56) may be noted in view of Challis 
and Harding’s recognition of a specifically late horizon of this kind of decoration at sites 
in East Yorkshire. 


There is a complete absence of any material which would suggest third- or fourth-century 
activity on the site [e.g. Dalesware, Holme upon Spalding Moor greywares), and all the 
diagnostic forms, as well as the fabric types present, point to a late first- and second- 
century date for this material. Some of the forms, such as carinated jars for example 
(Fig. 14, no. 42), have a Flavian to Antonine date range, and it is therefore conceivable 
that some of these assemblages close in the second half of the second century. 
Overwhelmingly, however, the emphasis appears to be on types current before about 
ad 150, and there is nothing that need go far into the Antonine period. Rusticated ware 
should be out of production by c. ad 150 at the very latest, and the earlier part of the 
century seems best placed to accommodate the Gallo-Belgic derived dish forms which 
are such a distinctive feature of these assemblages (Fig. 13, nos 9, 19, 26, 32). The 
greyware fabrics are reminiscent of those used in the Flavian-Antonine periods at Brough 
on Humber (Wacher 1969) and are mainly fairly coarse sand-tempered wares of the kinds 
produced at such North Lincolnshire kilns as Dragonby and Roxby. This is entirely 
typical of the period under discussion, for North Lincolnshire would appear to have been 
the main greyware supplier to south-east Yorkshire until the rise of the Holme industries 
in the earlier third century. 


Vessels are wheel-thrown unless indicated otherwise. The bracketed reference at the end 
of each entry is the vessel’s two-part identification number, composed of the context 
followed by a decimalised part number. 

Illus. no. 


1 . Fragment of off-white flagon handle. Perhaps closest to the Tiberio-Claudian Forms 
1 61 Ab and 161 B in the Camulodunum series (Hawkes and Hull 1947, Plates LXIII, 
LXV), though the fabric should in that case be fine, hard white pipe-clay. (200.1). 

2. Hand-built. Rim fragment from jar(?) with slightly beaded rim, slash-decorated 
on exterior edge. Perforated before firing. Dark brown surfaces, black in fresh 
fracture. Fairly soft fabric, with abundant ill-sorted calcareous tempering up to 
7 mm, including chalk and some fossil shell. Some traces of carbonised deposits/ 
residues on interior. Perhaps cf. Challis and Harding 1975, Fig. 41, no. 11, from 
Saltshouse Road, Hull, a site conventionally regarded as dating to the first century 

AD (20I.l). 



3. Hand-built. Barrel-shaped vessel with flat-topped rim with slight external bead. 
Hard black fabric tempered with abundant calcareous material, predominantly 
fossiliferous limestone in the 2—3 mm range. Carbonised deposits on exterior. 
(2 1 2. 1). 

4. Base of greyware jar. Sand temper in the 0.25 -1.00 mm range, with occasional 
chalk fragments. Light bluish-grey core, darker margins, light yellowish-brown 
interior, dark greyish-brown exterior. This type of base is not uncommon on rusti- 
cated jars. (2 1 2.2). 

5. Hand-built. Base of jar/bowl. Hard fabric, black in fresh fracture, with reddish- 
yellow interior surface. Occasional voids up to c. 4 mm. (216.2). 

6. Everted rim, possibly from a Flavian-Antonine carinated jar. Fine, almost untem- 
pered fabric with reddish-brown core and polished silky black surfaces. Sparse 
ferrous (?) inclusions to c. 1 mm. (216.1). 

7. Farge jar with outbent rim. Fine, sandy greyware with powdery surfaces. Fight grey 
core, darker grey surfaces, reddish-yellow margins. (206/210.1). 

8. Necked jar. Fabric similar to that of no. 7. (206/210.2). 

9. Greyware dish with omphalos base and thickened rim. Interior decoration made 
with a six-toothed comb. Slightly sandy fabric, with occasional chalk flecks. Dark 
grey with thin pale brown margins. Cf. Gillam 337, dated ad 70—100. A similar 
comb-decorated form occurs in a second-century context at North Cave 
(Didsbury, forthcoming). (206/210.3). 


10. Flagon. Soft white fabric. Camulodunum 163A (Hawkes and Hull 1947, Plate lxv). 
Tiberio-Claudian. (300.1). 

1 1 . Bowl with grooved exterior, loosely derived from samian form 30. Slightly sandy 
reddish-yellow fabric with light grey core. Exterior surfaces light brown, burnished/ 
self-slipped. Eater first- or earlier second-century? (300.2). 

12. Outbent rim of jar/bowl. Hard, dense, sandy, blue-grey burnished fabric, possibly 
from the same source as no. 4. Cf. Gregory 1996, Fig. 20.15, no. 1056, and similar 
second-century forms. Possibly the ‘blue-burnished greyware’ which was the charac- 
teristic second- and third-century greyware at Dragonby. (300.3). 

13. Wide-mouthed jar. Fine sandy fabric, with light brownish-grey core, light red 
margins and blue grey surfaces. Occasional red ferrous inclusions to c. 2 mm. 


14. Hand-built, possibly wheel-finished? Thin-walled, S-profile jar. Patchy dark grey to 
light reddish-brown surfaces, and grey core. Moderate amounts of calcareous 
temper below 2 mm. Temper well masked on both surfaces. Some carbonised 
deposits on exterior. (303.15). 

15. Greyware jar with stabbed herringbone decoration on shoulder. Harsh-textured 
sandy light-grey ware with brownish-grey exterior. Traces of carbonised deposits 
on shoulder. Cf. Roxby forms B and A (Rigby and Stead 1976, Fig. 65). This kind 
of decoration appears to be Flavian to early Antonine at Brough, cf. Wacher 1969, 
nos 93, 108, 168 etc. (303.12). 

16. Fid fragment? Rouletted upper surface. Find soft orange fabric, with light brown 
core in places. (303.1). 

17. Greyware jar. Fairly soft, slightly sandy fabric. Reddish-orange core, pale brown 
margins, patchy dark grey and brown surfaces. (303.7). 



1 8. Greyware jar. Hard harsh-textured light grey ware. Fabric similar to that of 
no. 4. (303.8). 

19. Bowl with internally beaded rim. Greyish-brown sandy fabric with fine silky bur- 
nished black surfaces. Fabric same as that of nos 6 and 26. Cf. Darling 1984, Fig. 15, 
nos 43, 44 and note. A common regional Flavian to Antonine form. (303.2). 

20. Greyware jar with zones of stabbed decoration. Fine sandy fabric with light grey 
surfaces and red core. Red bands on exterior where wheel burnished, perhaps a 
deliberate exploitation of differential oxidisation. Light yellow internal residue, 
which reacts with dilute hydrochloric acid. (303.14). 

21. Body sherd from greyware jar with two external girth grooves. Fairly soft sandy 
fabric. Light brownish-grey core, red margins, dark grey surfaces. (303.4). 

22. Greyware jar base. Fabric as that of no. 4 etc. (303.9). 

23. Jar base. Fine hard light grey ware with dark grey exterior. (303.10). 

24. Jar base. Fabric as that of no. 23. (303.1 1). 

25. Hand-built. Jar base. Hard dark grey ware with patchy red exterior and brownish 
grey interior. Moderate to abundant angular stone temper in the 3-7 mm range. 
Temper masked on exterior but not interior. (303.13). 

26. Inturned rim bowl. Greyish-brown sandy fabric, as that of nos 6 and 19, with fine 
silky black surfaces where burnished. Matt black exterior except for area of curve 
of rim, and matt black zone on which the burnished scroll decoration is reserved. 

( 3 ° 5 - 0 - 

27. Greyware jar base. Fabric similar to that of no. 26. (305.2). 

28. Hand-built. Dark brownish-grey fabric with black exterior. Abundant limestone(?) 
and quartz c. 2 mm. Traces of carbonised deposits on exterior, and possible internal 
residues. (305.3). 

29. Hand-built. Brownish fabric. Abundant ill-sorted fossiliferous limestone, 1-5 mm. 
External carbonised deposits in patches. (378.4). 

30. Hand-built. Everted rim jar. Soft black fabric tempered with abundant shell(?) and 
other inclusions 1—3 mm. Light carbonised deposits on exterior. (378.3). 

31. Everted rim greyware jar. Fine sandy dark grey fabric with some brown patches 
on exterior. Traces of carbonised deposits on exterior. (378.1). 

32. Bowl with inturned rim. Similar form and fabric to no. 19, and possibly from same 
source. Cf. entries for nos 9 and 19. (378.2). 

33. Everted rim jar. Fine hard light grey fabric with dark surfaces. Similar fabric to 
that of no. 8. Burnished on exterior, and on interior of rim. (380.1). 

34. Hand-built. Bowl with heavy bead rim. Brownish fabric with patchy brown/black 
exterior, and red internal margin. Abundant limestone(?) up to c. 3 mm. Fairly well- 
smoothed exterior, interior heavily pitted with large voids. Black internal residue. 


35. Greyware jar. Hard black fine sandy fabric with thin red margins. Matt surfaces. 

36. Base of greyware jar. Fine light bluish-grey fabric with darker grey exterior. 
Occasional dark mineral inclusions. (391. 1). 

37. Base of jar. Harsh black sandy fabric with brown exterior and patchy brown 
interior. (391.2). 


38. Handled jar. Fairly coarse sandy fabric, containing grog. Black with brown patches 
on exterior. Some external carbonised deposits. Cf. Rigby and Stead 1976, Fig. 82, 
no. 56, from an Antonine context at Winterton. (404.2). 



39. Rusticated jar. Pale sandy light bluish-grey fabric, with common voids. Darker 
brownish grey surfaces. (404.3). 

40. Hand-built jar. Black with brown margins. Micaceous. Flake of golden mica 3 mm 
long extrusive through exterior surface. External carbonised deposits. (404.7). 

41. Greyware jar. (404.5). 

42. Carinated jar. Fine sandy fabric with light red orange core and silky burnished dark 
grey surfaces. (404.1). 

43. Jar with angular shoulder. Sandy greyware with brownish margins and surfaces. 
( 4 ° 4 - 4 )-_ 

44. Mortarium rim fragment, as Gillam Type 238. Fairly soft, yellowish-white fabric. 
Northern France, c. ad 65-100. (Kindly identified by Mrs K. H. Hartley). 

45. Flagon fragment, rim missing. Fairly hard, yellowish-white fabric. Has an internal 
offset in the neck, as on some first-century examples from Eccles, Kent (Detsicas 

1977)- (404-6). 

46. Butt beaker. Camulodunum Form 113 (Hawkes and Hull 1947, Plate lvii. Fine 
hard pinkish yellow fabric. Tiberio-Neronian. (406.1). 

47. Fragment from flanged rim of dish/bowl. Fine fabric with self-slipped/burnished 
micaceous reddish-brown surfaces. Cf. Corder 1930, Fig. 17, no. 4 from Malton, or 
Rigby 1980, Fig. 35, no. 98, from Rudston. Similar forms appear as early as the 
Flavian period at Malton. (406.2). 

48. Hand-built. Jar with flat-topped upright rim. Hard dark grey fabric with patchy 
red exterior. Abundant calcareous temper including fossil shell, up to c. 5 mm. 

( 4 ° 7 - 2 )- 

49. Hand-built, with wheel-finished rim? Club-rimmed jar. Black with brownish patches 
on exterior. Ill-sorted shell to 15 mm, most below 5 mm. (407.1). 

50. Everted rim jar. Light red core, sandy buff margins, black surfaces. (41 1.2). 

51. Jar with heavy rim. Dark grey coarse sandy fabric with white margins and light 
grey surfaces. Most temper below 1 mm, some up to 5 mm. (41 1.4). 

52. Small jar/beaker. Sandy light reddish-yellow fabric. (411.1). 

53. Mortarium base. Coarse red fabric with remains of white slip on interior. Grey 
core in thickest parts of base. Polychrome grits including quartz and brown iron- 
stone(?). North-east England, probably second-century. (Kindly identified by Mrs 
K. H. Hartley). (41 1.3). 


54. Hand-built. Jar with flat-topped rim. Black with light brown exterior. Softish fabric 
with abundant shell, predominantly 2-3 mm, but up to 8 mm. Internal carbonised 
deposits/residue. (501. 1). 

55. Hand-built. Barrel jar with finger-tip (?) decoration on top of the rim. Black with 
patchy brown exterior. Abundant shell, much in 2—7 mm range. Temper well 
masked on exterior. (501.2). 

56. Hand-built. Large barrel shape/bowl. Finger-tipped top of rim. Grey core, black 
exterior, brownish interior. Abundant limestone, 1-5 mm. Traces of carbonised 
deposits on exterior. (502.1). 

57. Hand-built. Base. (Fabric description and ID no. not available). (502.1). 

58. Hand-built. Jar with insloping upper body and upright simple rim. Soft dark grey 
fabric with brownish surfaces. Some hne shell temper extant. (502.3). 

59. Hand-built. Barrel form? Hard black fabric with fossiliferous limestone mainly below 
3 mm. Temper quite well masked on both surfaces. (502.4). 


60. Hand-built. Jar with upright rim. Black with light brown exterior. Shell- 
tempered. (503.1). 

61. Hand-built jar. Fabric as no. 60. 

62. Hand-built. Jar base. Patchy brown to dark grey. Densely packed fossiliferous 
limestone, 3—8 mm. 

63. Hand-built. Upright-rimmed barrel jar. Hard black fabric, tempered with fossilifer- 
ous limestone (possibly Cave oolite). (51 5.1). 

The charred plant remains 
by J. P. Huntley 

Charred plant remains were recovered by floatation of bulk samples (20 litres) with both 
flots and residues retained upon 500 p mesh. Both flots and residues were sorted for their 
plant remains. Identification was by comparison with modern reference material owned 
by the author. The botanical data are presented in Table 2 and the sample information 
in Appendix 1. 

As is expected with a charred assemblage the plant remains are dominated by the 
cereal grains with their associated chafif and seeds of weeds of cultivation. Plants from 
other habitats are less likely to come into contact with fire other than accidentally whereas 
many cereal crops require drying prior to either processing or storage. 

Legumes, including both peas ( Pisum sativum) and Celtic bean ( Vida faba) are present. 
Their low occurrence does not necessarily indicate that they were a subsidiary aspect of 
the diet — simply they are an accidental survivor. 

Of the identifiable cereal grains, bread wheat ( Triticum. aestivum) and a hexaploid wheat 
(which is likely to be either bread or spelt wheat) are the most common followed by 
barley and oats, although the latter may be either the cultivated or wild species since the 
two cannot reliably be separated by grains alone. Only one floret base of oat was present 
and that was from the cultivated Avena sativa. One possibly rye grain was present, as was 
one rye chaff fragment. This species may, of course, have been a crop in its own right 
but was probably simply a weed amongst other cereals at this time. No barley chaff was 
recorded. Moderate amounts of wheat chaff were present in some of the samples and 
represented both bread and spelt wheat. That from spelt was associated with the high 
values of hexaploid wheat grains and it seems reasonable to suggest that these grains 
were, indeed, spelt. Equally the higher values of bread wheat chaff ( Triticum aestivum rachis 
nodes) were associated with bread wheat grains. 

The weed seeds suggest a variety of cultivation regimes with sedges ( Carex spp. and 
Eleocharis palustris) suggesting rather wetter ground, heath-grass ( Sieglingia decumbens) and 
sheep’s sorrel ( Rumex acetosella) indicating dry acidic soils and other species of Rumex, 
Chenopodium and Atriplex suggesting higher levels of manuring. What is particularly interes- 
ting is that there are no strong indicators of calcareous soil, which would be expected 
given the nature of the underlying rocks. This suggests that cultivation, if present on the 
overlying soils, may well have been well manured; alternatively these soils may have only 
supported grassland suitable for pasture. The high levels of Brome grass (. Bromus species) 
probably indicate a contaminant in the grain, since they are of a similar size to the cereal 
grains hence difficult to remove during processing other than individually by hand. 

In terms of the individual samples, only two contained reasonable numbers of items, 
the remaining six containing fewer than 50 each. Little extra may be said of these latter 
samples. For the two richer samples (contexts 106 and 227) they have rather different 



Table 2: The botanical data (raw counts) 

Context number 












5 1 1 




non cereal crops 

Legume > 4 mm 







Pisum sativum 





Vicia faba 




1 2-5 

Cereal chaff 

Triticum glume base 


l 5 


! 2-5 

Triticum spelta glume 






Triticum spikelet fork 


1 6 


! 2-5 

Triticum aestivum rachis node 

4 1 

4 1 


1 2-5 

Avena sativa floret base 




1 2-5 

Culm nodes 


J 3 


T 5 



Avena awn 





Triticum brittle rachis 




1 2.5 

Secale rachis internode 




! 2-5 

Cereal grain 

Triticum spelta 




I2 -5 

Triticum sp(p). 





cf. Secale cereale 




1 2.5 

Cerealia undiff. 





1 1 


7 1 6 










Hordeum hulled 




1 2.5 

Hordeum indet. 










Triticum aestivum 


1 37 





Triticum (hexaploid) 










Bromus sp(p). grain 









Atriplex sp(p). 





Gramineae < 2 mm 









Mentha— type 




! 2-5 

Legume < 4 mm 







Carex (trigonous) 









Carex (lenticular) 







Eleocharis palustris 





Montia font, chond. 






Fallopia convolvulus 






Polygonum lapathifolium 





Anthemis cotula 







Chenopodium album 






Rumex acetosella 







Raphanus raphanistrum pod frag. 






Rumex obtusifolius-typc 





l 3 



Sieglingia decumbens 


1 4 





Single occurrence of seeds: 

Context 106: Tripleurospermum mantimum, Scirpus lacustris, Gramineae >4 mm and Chrysanthemum segetum. Context 
227: Plantago lanceolata , Agrostemma githago and Gramineae 2-4 mm. Context 378: Raphanus raphanistrum and 
Hyoscyamus niger. 

Context 503: Galeopsis tetrahit. 



Context 106 contains the bulk of the bread wheat and the sole occurrence of moderate 
numbers of bread wheat chaff fragments. Bread wheat is free threshing and therefore 
grain and chaff are largely separated at threshing. The relative abundance of chaff in 
this context (i chaff : 3 grain) suggests that threshing debris had been deposited in this 
fill. The lack of large straw fragments, also the by-product of threshing, could suggest 
that this wheat was plucked/ cut below the ear with the straw either being left in the held 
or utilised elsewhere. The associated weed seeds suggest cultivation on heavier clay soils 
with manuring, perfectly in keeping with the cultivation of bread wheat. Although the 
site as a whole was broadly described as a Romano-British ladder settlement, the suite 
from this context suggests a later date — possibly even Medieval. Whilst bread wheat 
has been recorded from the late Iron Age to Romano-British period (e.g. Staple Howe, 
North Yorkshire, Brewster 1963; Barton Court Farm, Oxfordshire, Jones 1986; Rock 
Castle, North Yorkshire, van der Veen in Fitts et al. 1994; Scotch Corner, Durham, 
Huntley in Abramson 1995) weed taxa such as Anthemis cotula and Chrysanthemum seqetum 
rarely appear before the Medieval period. 

Context 227 contains considerably more material but which is less well preserved. 
About 60 per cent of the cereal grains are not identifiable even to genus. Bread wheat 
is present but the assemblage is dominated by hexaploid wheat grains. From the evidence 
of the chaff, as discussed above, it is suggested that this wheat is largely spelt. Glume 
bases and spikelet fork fragments of spelt are present, as are moderate numbers of culm 
nodes — the large fragments of straw. Culm nodes represent debris from the threshing 
process — the initial process after harvesting, and their presence suggests that the crops 
were probably being grown by the inhabitants of this settlement. Their presence also 
indicates that this crop was probably cut or pulled at ground level. Spelt is a glume wheat 
with spikelets being produced upon threshing, rather than the free grain of bread wheat. 
These spikelets are then dried/parched and pounded to release the grains from the 
glumes, with the glume bases and spikelet forks representing a by-product from this 
process. The associated weed assemblage is also different from that of 106. The wet 
ground taxa are common; only four species in total are in common with 106, 11 being 
unique to 227. Given the nature of the deposit — a tertiary fill it would seem that a 
variety of material was dumped in it. This represents initial threshing by-products as well 
as later stages in crop processing and a considerable amount of grain too. This was, 
presumably, material burnt beyond use during the parching process, although could 
represent cleanings and the annual bonfire from clearing out storage buildings from one 
year to the next. The generally poor state of preservation could indicate that the material 
lay around for some time prior to deposition or could relate to an active burial environ- 
ment. The former is more likely, given the preservation of generally delicate glume 
fragments. The suite from this context is completely in keeping with a Romano-British 

Whether a site was a consumer or a producer of grain is almost impossible to determine, 
although always requested by the archaeologist. Whilst pure grain could be thought to 
represent a consumer site, Jones (1985) argued that a consumer would be characterised 
by the by-products (having presumably eaten all of the grain!) and it was the producer 
that had only grain. The assumption here, though, must be that the material represented 
on the producer site is the stored final product — there is no suggestion as to what has 
happened to the processing by-products. What seems more reasonable is the suggestion 
by Hillman (1981, 1984) that a producer site will, indeed, contain representation of all 
of the processing stages, whereas a consumer will only have material from the later stages 
depending upon whether the grains are free-threshing or not. The presence of the large 



culm node and straw fragments at Melton may well suggest a producer site although 
such material may, of course, have been used as bedding/thatching on a consumer site! 
Given that the evidence can be further biased depending upon the species and which 
fragments may be differentially preserved or not, perhaps should lead one to ignore this 
aspect and concentrate upon the cultivation regimes represented. 

Published sites with botanical data are not available from this area, as far as the author 
is aware, but there are some archive reports primarily from excavations by staff in the 
Department of Archaeology at the University of Durham. Palmer (n.d.) identified charred 
material from a Roman pottery kiln site at Bursea House and found a mixture of wheat 
and barley. Although most of her wheat was hexaploid category only, she did recover 
one bread wheat grain. The only wheat chaff present was glume material, the majority 
of which were from spelt. The rest was, presumably unidentifiable. A third of her barley 
remains consisted of internode fragments (chaff) and therefore different from Melton. 
Weed assemblages again represented damp conditions and acidic soils generally. 

Palmer and Whitehouse (1994) analysed samples from a third-century ad waterlogged 
feature at Shiptonthorpe. Although samples were very small, Palmer recovered an 
emmer glume base, spelt glume bases and a bread wheat rachis internode. Barley 
grains and rachis were present too. Weeds were from a very similar suite to that at 

The largest assemblage available from this general area is that from Redcliff (van der 
Veen 1990). The majority of the material was from the mid first century ad, a late Iron 
Age settlement site with a very small amount of material dated to the Saxon period. 
Only six per cent of the assemblage was represented by cereal grains (barley, spelt and 
bread/ club wheat) and eight per cent by cereal charr (spelt and barley). Seventy nine 
per cent of the remains were from seeds of arable weeds and the Redcliff assemblage is 
therefore clearly different from that at Melton. These seeds, however, represent similar 
habitats and cultivation regimes — wet marshy ground, rather acidic soils and a variety 
of nutrient enrichment regimes. 

In summary, only two of the sample produced enough material to offer an inter- 
pretation. The plant remains for all eight samples were dominated by cereal grains 
(representing 80 per cent of the assemblage). Although largely unidentifiable, there were 
significant numbers of bread wheat and spelt wheat and some barley. Chaff fragments 
represented seven per cent of the assemblage and weed seeds 13 per cent. In addition, 
ten seeds of peas and/ or beans were present but no evidence for other economic taxa. 
The spelt and bread wheat were almost mutually exclusive and it is argued, from the 
associated weed assemblages, that the bread wheat context may, in fact, represent later 
material than the general site dating indicates. The spelt context fits neatly with a 
Romano-British date. Large chaff fragments suggest some local production but the other 
chaff fragments could indicate either a consumer or a producer site. Weed assemblages 
suggest cultivation on rather acidic soils and with impeded drainage. There is some 
evidence for nutrient enrichment, presumably through manuring. The cultivation seems, 
therefore, to have been on the soils nearer to the river with little evidence for cultivation 
on the more calcareous soils of the immediate vicinity. These may have supported grass- 
land. The site adds further information about a period little known from its plant remains 
in this part of East Yorkshire. Given the amount of information which has been extracted 
from, in effect, only two samples, it is clear that this site has high potential for further 
work, should road development be undertaken at any stage in the future. Larger samples 
would need to be taken but the results should be rewarding in investigating economic 
practices through a period of change. 



by L. J. Gidney 


The archaeological evaluation of the Iron Age and Romano-British ‘ladder 5 settlement 
at Melton produced animal bones among the hand-recovered finds from Trenches A, B, 
G, E, F, G and H. Trenches E— H produced the greatest quantities of bone. 

The occupation has been divided into four phases: 

Phase i pre-Roman Iron Age 
Phase 2 pre/ early Roman Iron Age 
Phase 3 Roman 
Phase 4 Medieval 

It was not possible to phase some contexts, while others were of modern origin. 

The bones were generally in good condition. Some are brittle and have been chipped 
or broken since being excavated. This has reduced the number of otherwise measurable 
bones. Three contexts in Trench E and one in Trench H contained bones in poor 
condition, which appeared to have been redeposited. The majority of the bones appear 

Table 3a: Summary of fragment counts for the species present 

Hand Recovered Finds 















Sheep/ Goat 







3 1 







1 2 




cf. Dog 



cf Red Deer 



Large Ungulate 






Small Ungulate 









cf. Human 


Mouse sp. 


Vole sp. 


Shrew sp. 



Rook/ Crow 



Thrush sp. 

Bird sp. 








1 28 

1 74 


1 28 



Table 3b: Summary of fragment counts for the species present 

Hand Recovered Finds Phases Unknown Modern 



3 ° 


7 1 




Sheep/ Goat 















Dog & cf. Dog 




cf. Red Deer 


Large Ungulate 




Small Ungulate 





Human & cf. Human 




Mouse sp. 


Vole sp. 


Shrew sp. 




Rook/ Crow 


Thrush sp. 


Bird sp. 











Table 4a: Relative proportions of the domestic species from fragment counts 

Trenches A B C E F G H 

Cattle & 




7 1 

1 1 



Large Ungulate 


3 I% 

75 % 





Sheep/Goat & 





1 22 



Small Ungulate 



25 % 


7 1 % 




















to have been buried when in fresh condition. Gnaw marks were seen on many fragments 
indicating that dogs had access to much of the material prior to burial. Butchery marks 
were infrequently observed. None of the bones exhibited the heavy-handed butchery 
techniques particularly associated with Roman military establishments. 



Table 4b: Relative proportions of the domestic species from fragment counts 






Cattle & 




1 1 

Earge Ungulate 

73 % 




Sheep/ Goat & 





Small Ungulate 










! 9 % 

7 % 


4 1 

T 95 




Approximate counts of the identifiable fragments are presented in Table 3a by trench 
and Table 3b by phase. It can be seen that the bulk of the identifiable fragments were 
from cattle and sheep/ goat. Ribs and vertebrae were recorded as either large ungulate 
for the cattle size examples or small ungulate for those sheep sized. The term sheep/goat 
is used. However, no examples of goat bones were seen, all diagnostic fragments were 
of sheep. It should be emphasised that the total collection of identifiable fragments is 
small and therefore some of the variation present may be a product of small sample size. 
The relative proportions of Cattle: Sheep: Pig from fragments counts in Tables 4a and 
4b show interesting variation between the trenches and the phases. Cattle fragments 
predominate only in Trenches E and G. A high proportion of cattle remains is usually 
associated with Roman occupational debris, and one Roman phase was identified in 
Trench E. A concentration of cattle bones was observed from Trench E which may 
indicate the dispersal of remains originally deposited in articulation. Trenches B, F and 
H produced greater quantities of sheep/goat fragments, a trend normally found in pre- 
Roman Iron Age deposits. Roman phases were identified in Trenches B and F. Pig bones 
were scarce and were only found in number in Trench F, where they outnumbered 
remains of cattle. In fact, the bulk of the pig bones were found in context 393, which 
produced no cattle bones. 

The phase, rather than area, breakdown of the species in Table 4b shows an interesting- 
pattern with cattle bones predominating over those of sheep and pig in Phase 1 , a shift 
to high proportions of sheep and pig fragments relative to those of cattle in Phase 2, 
followed by a return to the Phase 1 pattern, with cattle remains predominant, in Phase 3. 

Although the assemblage from Melton is small, it is of interest that similar trends 
have been observed at other contemporary sites. At Thorpe Thewles, Rackham (1987) 
observed a decline in the proportion of cattle bones and a concomitant increase in sheep 
bones in phase III, comparable to Phase 2, relative to phase II, comparable with Phase 
1 . Similarly, at RedclifT sheep bones were most numerous in the late pre-Roman 
Iron Age phases but cattle bones were most abundant in the later phases (Gidney 

The medieval group from Phase 4 is particularly small but follows the trend anticipated 
for the period with sheep fragments outnumbering those of cattle. 

Teeth, fused and unfused epiphysial ends were found for the three main domesticates. 



However, there were too few examples for any analyses of age structure, slaughter pattern 
or stature. 

Horse bones were found in Trenches E and H. These included complete metapodials 
and gnawed bones which may indicate partial recovery of bodies originally dumped in 
ditches and dispersed by scavengers. Table 3b indicates that horse bones were present in 
Phases 1 and 2, reached peak abundance in Phase 3 and were absent from Phase 4. The 
contrast in numbers of horse bones present in Phases 2 and 3 is particularly striking since 
the overall numbers of identified bones are similar. 

The frequency of canid gnaw marks on bones is a better indication of the presence of 
dogs on the site than the bones found, which were single elements confined to Trenches 
E and F, Phases 1-3. 

Red deer was represented by a single fragment of worked antler from Trench E, Phase 
1 . While the fragment itself is not diagnostic, it is too large for roe deer antler and fallow 
deer are a medieval introduction. 

Dispersed human remains were found in Trench E with further examples in Trenches 
B and H. One bone had been gnawed. This may suggest scavenging of either burials or 
gibbeted bodies by dogs and perhaps also pigs, foxes or mustelids. 

A small cache of small mammal bones was found in Trench E, context 222, Phase 1. 
The jaws indicate the presence of mouse, vole and shrew species. These may have been 
accumulated by a wild predator, for example in the pellets regurgitated by birds of 

Bird bones were very infrequent with a total absence of domestic poultry. The corvid 
and thrush family bones were found in association with the small animal bones in context 
222. The buzzard bone from Trench H is from a recent context and may represent an 
episode in the persecution of this species since the seventeenth century (Reid-Henry and 
Harrison 1988, 79). 

A part skeleton of a frog or toad was found in Trench G, context 407, Phase 3. 
Amphibians are active in spring and summer and are attracted to damp ditches. 


The samples have not enhanced the representation of larger species. Only one sample 
from Trench F produced several identifiable bones of sheep/ goat and pig, besides a 

Table 5: Presence of faunal remains in samples 









No. of samples with bones 








Burnt bone 



1 1 



Indet. bone 





1 2 



Sheep/ Goat 






Small mammal 







Vole sp. 














Bird sp. 






quantity of burnt bone fragments which had no counterpart in the hand recovered 
collection. The samples have greatly increased the recovery of small mammal and 
frog/ toad bones, which can be seen to be more evenly distributed through the trenches 
in Table 5. The majority of the small mammal teeth were from vole species with one 
mouse jaw and no further finds of shrews. The bird bones were all from small wild 
species. There were no indubitable examples of fish bone from the samples. Small 
mammal, bird and amphibian species appear to have been attracted by the human 
environment, for example ditches with decaying refuse, while open pits may have inadver- 
tently acted as deadfall traps. 


by John Carrott, Harry Kenward and Annie Milles 

Six assemblages of molluscs, mostly from ditch features, from an Iron Age and Romano- 
British settlement at Melton, East Yorkshire, have been investigated. The moderate to 
large assemblages of well-preserved remains were dominated by dry and damp grassland 
taxa, with little clear evidence for tree or scrub cover. 

Practical methods 

The samples were examined as pre-processed hots (together with a small amount of 
material recovered from the residues). 

Counts are for minimum numbers of individuals (mni). Two Vallonia species and two 
Carychium species were present in very large numbers in four of the flots in these cases 
twenty identifications were made and the mni counts for each species proportioned 

The samples identified by the evaluation as having the greatest potential were recorded 
in some detail, although semi-quantitative estimates of minimum numbers of individuals 
were used in a few cases (see below). All complete fossils and distinctive fragments were 
identified to species (with the exception of Cepaea sp.), although all of the flots contained 
numerous unidentified fragments. 

The manuscript lists were entered to a Paradox database using a system written by 
JC. These data were interrogated using Paradox, the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet package 
and a Pascal program written by HK, producing ‘main statistics' and species lists in rank 
order for each assemblage and for the whole site. 

Interpretative methods 

As a first step towards integrating evidence from molluscs with that from other invert- 
ebrate remains, the interpretative methods employed in this report parallel those used 
for insect remains from a variety of sites by Kenward and co-workers (introduced by 
Kenward 1978, with refinements discussed, for example, by Kenward 1982; 1988 and 
Hall and Kenward 1990). The interpretation rests on certain main statistics of whole 
assemblages of molluscs. The ecological codes applied to species are derived from those 
used by Dr T. P. O’Connor in his work in the eau (e.g. Kenward and Hall 1995, 791). 

The principal sources for the biology of the recorded species were Evans (1972) and 
Kerney and Cameron (1979). 

The taxa recorded are listed sample by sample in Table 6, which also includes some 
summary data. 



Table 6: Counts, semi-quantitative note and some summary statistics for mollusc remains from 
Melton. Key to Prefix: S— number of species; N — minimum number of individuals. Key to Ecodes 
and Suffix: TV — dry grassland; RS — -rock rubble/scree; WL -woodland/leaf litter; SN — syn- 
anthropic; WS — woodland/scrub; DV — damp grassland; DW — aquatic marginal vegetation. Key 
to semi-quantitative note: p — present. 



Phase i 


N % 

Phase 2 

N % 


N % 


N % 




Phase 3 

N % 

Carychium minimum 




3 -o 





3 1 

1 ’5 




! 5-8 

Carychium tridentatum 



5 -o 

7 1 





! 3-3 


0.3 625 29.1 

Cochlicopa lubrica 



3 -o 


1 .0 



1 14 




M 3 


Columella edentula 

ws— dv 













Truncatellina cylindrica 














Vertigo pygmaea 











o -3 


0. 1 

Pupilla muscorum 










i 7 



o -3 

Lauria cylindracea 
(da Costa) 







o -5 


o -5 




o -3 

Vallonia costata 






5 °- 1 

438 51.0 

1 1 13 




765 35 - 6 

Vallonia excentrica 



1 6 


7 i 


1 10 

12.8 278 

M- 1 





Acanthinula aculeata 




1 2 

i -5 

J 7 



i -7 





Ena obscura 









o -3 




1 . 1 

Punctum pygmaeum 

wl— dv 


o -3 











Discus rotundatus 


ws— dv-sn 


o -3 









1 1 

o -5 

Vitrea crystallina 













0. 1 

Vitrea contracta 



o -3 











Aegopinella nitidula 














Oxychilus cellarius 


sn-ws— rs 












i -5 

Cecilioides acicula 




T 54 



0. 1 







Clausilia bidentata 

wl— ws— rs 




i -7 








o -3 

Cernuella neglecta 















Helicella itala 














Trichia hispida 

dv— tv— ws 




1. 1 

! 3 








Cepaea sp. 

dv— ws 




0. 1 




0. 1 





Mytilus sp. 















Results and general discussion 
Terrestrial taxa 

All of the samples gave large numbers of remains. Preservation was generally good 
although most of the fossils showed some ‘weathering’ (surface erosion) and, as noted 
above, there were many unidentified fragments. 

Two of the flots (from Contexts 206 and 824) showed evidence of modern bioturb- 
ation — large quantities of rootlets and large numbers of Cecilioides acicula , a burrowing 
land snail which is almost certainly intrusive to these deposits since there are good reasons 
for believing it is a recent introduction (Evans 1972, 168). 

The assemblages were generally uniform and yielded a substantial range of taxa. 

The mollusc assemblages had a distinct general character; a mixture of dry and damp 
grassland forms, with some taxa also able to exploit shadier habitats in woodland or 
scrub. Dominant species were Vallonia costata, V. excentrica, Carychium indentation, C. minimum 
and Cochlicopa lubrica , but several other taxa occurred in quite substantial numbers. 

Marine taxa 

A very small number of marine mollusc shells were also recovered. These were mostly 
very rotted and of no interpretative value beyond demonstrating their probable utilisation 
for foot. 

Discussion by period, trench and context 

Phase 1 

Trench H 

Context 503 [tertiary fill of enclosure ditch 504] 

This group was dominated by Vallonia costata and Cepaea sp. (perhaps both C. nemoralis 
and C. hortensis , although the condition of the material left the identifications somewhat 
uncertain). Again, the assemblage suggests that this was a ‘dry’ ditch feature. 

Phase 2 

Trench E 

[Contexts 206 and 227 — tertiary fills of substantial ditch 207] 

The assemblages have the general character outlined above, although there is a sub- 
stantially higher proportion of damp grassland taxa in Context 227, the lower of the 
contexts, when compared with the upper (27 per cent and 13 per cent respectively). The 
absence of any freshwater or aquatic marginal vegetation indicators suggests strongly 
that this was a ‘dry’ ditch, the damp grassland taxa perhaps being favoured by the slightly 
moister conditions within the cut. 

All of the samples from these contexts (206AA, 227AA and 227AB) contained 
Truncatellina cylindrica a species which is ‘widespread but always very local’ (Kerney and 
Cameron 1979) and only recorded from a few locations in the British Isles. 

Trench F 

Context 824 [fill of posthole 825 associated with putative early Roman rectangular 

The assemblage is dominated by the burrowing snail Cecilioides acicula. This species 
aside the general character of the small residual assemblage (49 individuals) is consistent 



with those from the other contexts. However, the presence of C. acicula , together with 
the large quantity of rootlets in the flot, must cast doubt on ecological interpretation. 

Phase 3 

Trench G 

Context 407 [primary fill of large ‘V’-section ditch 405] 

The assemblage shows a markedly larger proportion of damp grassland forms and 
correspondingly lower proportion of dry grassland taxa by comparison with others from 
the site, although the numbers of species of each group are similar to the other contexts 
(with the exception of 824). The dominant species were Vallonia costata, Carychium tri- 
dentatum, C. minimum and Cochlicopa lubrica , all of which were very abundant, and there 
were also numerous Cepaea sp. However, as in the case of the assemblages from Trench 
E, the absence of obligate of freshwater and aquatic marginal vegetation snails suggest 
that this was a ‘dry’ ditch. 


For this report the authors have ‘borrowed 1 the ecological coding system previously 
employed in the eau. However, analysis of the present assemblages has served strongly 
to emphasise the need for a radically new approach to ecological coding for this rather 
difficult group. This was not feasible within project constraints. 

The material was supplied pre-processed from bulk samples, and the assemblages were 
as a result of uncontrolled size. It is not easy randomly to subdivide material of this kind, 
so all the snails from each of the selected samples have been recorded. Much smaller 
groups from ‘gba 1 (sensu Dobney et al. 1992) samples would have given essentially the 
same information for much less expenditure of effort, and more of the assemblages could 
have been listed in detail. 

Overall, the snails indicate grassy vegetation, at least in places offering some degree 
of moisture and shade for the ‘damp ground 1 taxa, which were probably favoured by 
conditions in the ditches and may not, therefore, reflect ecological conditions beyond 
them. Clearly, there were habitats for species of open, quite dry, ground, probably the 
general surface in the area, but conceivably only the ditch slopes themselves. It is import- 
ant to establish whether the ditches infilled by colluviation, so that snails from a wide 
area upslope might be included, or whether infill was by inwash of finer material, in 
which case much of the fauna might be autochthonous (originating at the point of 
deposition). In the former case the snail assemblages have value in defining the broad 
ecology of the site, but in the latter case they will obviously only give information about 
the ditches and their immediate surroundings. 

The assemblages indicate only minor variations in the ecological conditions on the site 
over time. The assemblage from Context 824 is somewhat different to those from the 
other contexts but is relatively much smaller, and therefore more easily biased, and shows 
evidence of bioturbation and a probable intrusive species (rootlets and C. acicula, 


Trial excavation at Melton has identified an Iron Age, early Roman, and medieval period 
landscape. There are obvious implications of continuity between the pre-Roman and 
Roman periods, spanning an important transitional period. The excavated features com- 
pared very favourably with the geophysical survey, but proved able to elucidate areas 
where the aerial photographs and the geophysical plot were unclear (as happened in the 



area of French A) or where definition was insufficient (such as the rectangular building 
in Trench B and the circular structures in Trench F). The dating evidence, exclusively 
ceramic as it so happens (although there was potential for radiocarbon dating), enables 
a clear, if tentative, phasing to be applied to some parts of the archaeological landscapes 
identified at Melton. 


Thanks are due to the landowner, Mr Holtby, for his courtesy, tolerance, and interest during our 
sojourn. Ed Dennison and Dan Johnston of Anthony Walker and Partners (and subsequently 
Barton Howe Warren and Blackledge) provided welcome advice and assistance where needed. 
The supervisors Graeme Young, Damien Ronan, and Mick McElvaney assisted the director most 
ably in the field, whilst the art and craft of the diggers did ample justice to the exciting nature of 
the site. Finally, Peter Cardwell and Richard Fraser of Northern Archaeological Associates read 
early drafts of the text and provided the customary invaluable support in the field and during the 
post-excavation process, whilst Damien Ronan and Roger Simpson undertook the task of illustrat- 
ing this report. The excavations and post-excavation reports were funded by the Highways Agency. 


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Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Voiyi, 1999 



By David Shotter 

The Museum’s collection contains 130 legible Roman Coins — in addition to the group 
excavated at Goldsborough; most of these, however, are unfortunately unprovenanced. 
The coins range from Claudius I to Arcadius (Appendix 1). 

This group of Roman coins in the Museum contains very few that are provenanced, 
and does not include the small collection which derives from the site of the coastal watch- 
tower at Goldsborough (Hornsby and Laverick, 1932), which will be discussed below. The 
record of provenanced coins from the Whitby area is very small (Clark, 1935, 138; YAJ xxxm 
(1936—38), 228; see Appendix). Such descriptions of these as are given make it a reasonable 
assumption that most are probably included in the Museum collection. They include aes- 
issues of Vespasian and Domitian, a denarius of Hadrian, a coin of Licinius I and a 
Constantinian GLORIA EXERCITVS. The only one of these that can definitely not be 
traced in the Museum’s collection was described as an Alexandrian issue of Antoninus 
Pius. Further ‘Whitby Ends’ are given by Elgee (1923, 19), and comprise an aes-issue of 
Severus Alexander (of which there are two in the Museum), and a denarius of Hadrian. 

Eleven Roman coins have been found at the Monastic site (Peers and Radford, 1943, 
85); one of these was illegible, whilst two Constantinian issues were found with a hoard 
of stycas. The remaining listed coins were: Tetricus I 1; Constantine I 1; Valentinian I 
2; Valens 2; Gratian 1. It seems that these coins are lodged with the other Ends in the 
British Museum. 

Twenty-one coins were recovered from excavations at Goldsborough; a further 
Constantinian issue was found in 1962 (TAJ xli (1963-66), 6). The complete list from 
Goldsborough is thus as follows: 

Hadrian 1 

Divus Claudius 1 


(1 standard) 2 






Valentinian II 1 

Theodosius I 3 

Arcadius 1 

Eugenius 1 

Honorius 1 

A { RIC 970) 
JE ( RIC 259) 


A { LRBC I. 104) 

A (inc. LRBC II. 479) 

M {LRBC II. 104, 277, 309, 504, 528, 995) 
A { LRBC II. 505) 

A (LRBC II. 1083) 

A (inc. LRBC II. 804 (2)) 

A (as LRBC II. 164) 

A {RIC IX (Trier), io6d) 
yR (Hunter {Honorius), 8) 


If we assume that the Museum’s collection is made up of local finds, and add to it the 
other coins known to have originated in Whitby, we achieve the following table of 142 
coins (Table 1). 



Table i 























2. I I 






1 .41 



3 ! - 6 9 



1 .41 



1 .41 



io -57 






1 .41 



J 5-49 



1 .41 






1— 1 









1 .41 




Thus 7.74 per cent of the sample derives from the first and second centuries, and 1 1 .97 
per cent pre-dates the Imperium Galliarum , whilst the period from the mid-third century 
onwards accounts for 88.03 P er cent of the sample. 

This provides no basis for suggesting the existence of a Flavian military site in the vicinity 
of Whitby, though, as in the north-west (Shotter, 1994), the coin of Claudius I might 
indicate Whitby’s natural harbour as a possible disembarkation point for troops sent in the 
pre-Flavian period to police the treaty between Rome and the Brigantes; in particular, this 
may have been connected with problems arising out of the Brigantes’ relationship with 
their immediate neighbours. It might have been expected, however, that there would have 
been more evidence of activity around the estuary of the Esk in the first and second 
centuries as a part of the developing infrastructure servicing military sites inland. 

From the middle of the second century, the coin-evidence begins to grow in strength; 
the impetus behind this was surely economic and commercial, as the market represented 
by the soldiers and civilians at York and other sites started to develop. We may assume 
that the harbour facilities were seen to offer advantages to traders and the reported find 
of an Alexandrian coin of Antoninus seems to point in this direction. Local farmers will 
have been stimulated, and agriculture will have developed as veterans from York and 
other military sites were settled locally. A hoard, apparently terminating with coins of 
Marcus Aurelius, which was found at Ugthorpe in 1792, hints at growing prosperity in 
the region. We may assume that an important feature of this prosperity was a developing 
trade in jet objects. 

Whitby’s coin-sample begins to show strength in the third century; although period X 
(ad 1 92-222) is on the slight side, the appearance of coins in XI (ad 222—35) an d XII 
(ad 235—59) which are normally poorly represented, may be taken to point to a definite 
acceleration of economic activity. Period XIII, to which radiates and copies of them have 
been assigned, has 13.38 per cent of the total sample, though it should be noted that this 
is considerably smaller than is usually found on military sites in the north, where 20 per 
cent - 35 per cent of sample-size is not uncommon. It should also be noted that, for a 
variety of reasons, some of these losses could have occurred up to a century after the 
coins’ nominal dates of issue. It is, for example, not uncommon to find radiate copies 
associated with hoards of a relatively late date in the fourth century (Shotter, 1978), and 
such coins frequently make an appearance in the assemblages of the coastal watchtowers. 

The real strength of Whitby’s coin-sample emerges in the fourth century, to which 
approximately 73 per cent of the coins are attributable, although the standard of recording 
does not always allow precise allocation to be made between period XV, XVI and XVII. 
It is likely that in general terms, particularly in the early part of the century, this strength 
is to be explained by the growing significance of York as a result of the reforms of 
Diocletian and Constantine, and the closer bonds with the provinces of western Europe 
which these will have entailed. 



It is of particular interest that so large a part of the sample is occupied by coins whose 
dates of issue fall later than c. ad 350 (approximately 31 per cent); of these, five are later 
than ad 388, and coins of the House of Valentinian are particularly numerous (period 
XIX). It is hard to imagine that the reason for this lies in other than military activities 
connected with the concentration of attention on the north-east coast after ad 367. The 
question naturally arises as to whether Whitby should be regarded as another watchtower 
site — presumably on the East Cliff and buried beneath the monastic site. Five 
Valentinianic coins have been recorded from that area, and all recorded coins are later 
than the mid-third century ad . To date, however, no coins later than Valentinianic have 
been reported as specifically from the East Cliff, although there are five unprovenanced 
issues of Theodosius and Arcadius in the Museum’s collection. These consist of GLORIA 
thus take the dates of issue up to ad 394—95. There are, however, none of Honorius, 
and no silver issues as are recorded from other watchtower sites. On the other hand, so 
complete a record is not to be expected in a situation where no excavations have been 
directly concerned with Roman deposits and where medieval activity may have resulted 
in the removal of evidence of the Roman period. 

Coin data is available from four known watchtower sites — Huntcliff, Goldsborough, 
Scarborough and Filey (though not all of it at a comparable level of detail or precision) 
(Table 2). 

Although the overall profile of the coins from Whitby Museum of the mid-third century 
and later differs from those of other watchtower sites, if we limit the comparison to coins 
of periods XVIII-XXI, the relationships become closer (Table 3). 

Table 2 








% ^ 
















i .6 







1 1.2 


















3 (?) 








r 5 

1 2.0 

1 1 (?) 



8 -57 







1 7.6 
























1 1 

3 T -43 



2 1 




Table 3 






4- 1 7 


4- 1 7 













I 2.64 




I0 .34 


3 - 4 6 




Allowing for some distortion to period XVIII amongst the coins from Whitby Museum, 
the make-up of the coin population, as well as the distribution between periods, leaves 
a strong case for supposing that a coastal watchtower was built on the East Cliff at 
Whitby in the late fourth century; the coin evidence is backed by the discovery in the 
area of pottery of the late fourth century (Clarke, 1935, 138). Further, although the 
distance between Goldsborough and Ravenscar is not particularly long by comparison 
with those between Huntcliff and Goldsborough and between Ravenscar and 
Scarborough, the prominence of Whitby's East Cliff and the likely significance of the 
Esk estuary in combination serve to strengthen Whitby’s case, although the site itself may 
well have been lost to coastal erosion. 


Claudius I 1 

Vespasian 1 (frag) 

Domitian 1 

Nerva 1 

Antoninus Pius 3 

Marcus Aurelius 1 

Elagabalus 1 

Julia Maesa 1 

Severus Alexander 2 

Philip I 1 

Trajan Decius (?) 1 

Gallienus 1 

Claudius II 4 

Divus Claudius 1 

Victorinus 3 

Tetricus I 3 

Tetricus II 1 

Unassignable Radiate copies 3 

Unassignable Alexandrian coins 2 

Probus 1 

Carausius 1 

Constantius I 1 







Illegible 1 




(2 standards) 

Victory on prow 1 1 

She-wolf and twins 3 


(1 standard) 

RIG 424 
RIG 340 
RIC 136 

inc. RIC 636, 904 
RIC 1 1 20 
RIC 127 
RIC 276 
RIC 456, 642 

(Greek coin from Antioch) 

RIC 32 1 

inc. RIC 50, 65, 139 
RIC 260 
RIC 55, 67, 78 
RIC 56, 100, 145 

Milne 4631 
RIC 9 1 

RIC VI (Lyons), 53a 

RIC VI (Trier), 898 

inc. RIC VII (London), 17, (Trier), 40, 42, 70 

RIC VII (Trier), 249 
inc. RIC VII (Trier), 389 

LRBC I. 5, 1161 

inc. LRBC l. 180, 182, 542, 1428 

inc. LRBC l. 52 (5), 185 (2), 1220, 1360 

LRBC l. 70, 184, 745 

inc. LRBC I. 90, 102, 565, 670, 1468 





LRBC I. 104 



inc. LRBC l. 138 (2), 153, 264 



inc. LRBC II. 253 




inc. LRBC II. 29 (2) 



LRBC II. 20, 49, 50, 56, 214, 431 



LRBC II. 444 




inc. LRBC II. 484 



inc. LRBC II. 82, 96, 280 (2), 502, 2664 



inc. LRBC II. 503, 505, 523a (2) 



LRBC II. 160, 166, 804 





LRBC II. 1 61 

These are distributed 

[ as follows: 

I (—AD 41) 


11 (41-54) 


hi (54-68) 


IV (69-96) 


V (96-117) 





h— H 




VII (138-61) 


VIII (161-80) 


IX (180-92) 


X (192-222) 


XI (222-35) 


XII (235-59) 


XIII (259-75) 


XIV (275-94) 


XV (294-24) 


XVI (324-30) 


XVII (330-46) 


XVIII (346-64) 

T 5 

XIX (364-78) 

l 9 

XX (378-88) 


XXI (388- ) 



The following provenances of ten Roman coins appear to be secure: 

Claudius I (T) 

Vespasian ( 7 E) 

Domitian ( 7 E) 

Hadrian (yR) 

Hadrian (yR) 

Antoninus Pius (Alexandrian) 

Alexander Severus ( 3 E) 

Claudius II (Alexandrian) 

Licinius I (M) 


2 standards) 

Cliff at Saltwick 
Mayfield (1877) 

Harbour (1931) 

Backdale (before 1930) 


West Cliff (1935) 



Pier Lane 

Jolly Sailor Hotel (1928) 



The Museum also has another group of 44 unprovenanced Roman coins, most of 
which are untypical of the bulk of the collection; some of them may conceivably have 
derived from hoards, or the coins may represent a donated collection. In any case, 
because of the chronological distribution of these coins, their inclusion would not make 
a great deal of difference to the main thrusts of this paper, and none at all to the matter 
of a late period of Roman occupation. The coins are listed below in abbreviated form: 



(4 2R; 1 7 E) 




Claudius I 








a, u 













Antoninus Pius 


oc u 

Faustina I 



Marcus Aurelius 












Septimius Severus 



Julia Domna 












Julia Sohaemias 






Gordian III 


A; A 

Philip I 



Trajan Decius 





A; A 







Constantine I 



a Greek coin attributed to Alexander the 



I am grateful to the Hon. Curator and staff at Whitby Museum for providing me with 
access to the Museum’s collection of Roman coins; and to Dr Richard Brickstock of 
Durham University for allowing me access, prior to publication, to the list of coins 
excavated at Filey in 1993 and 1994. 


Hunter. A. S. Robertson, 1982 Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet , vol. V (Oxford). 
LRBC : P. V. Hill, R. A. G. Carson and J. P. C. Kent, i960 Late Roman Bronze Coinage (London). 
Milne:]. G. Milne, 1971 A Catalogue of Alexandrian Coins (London). 

RIC: H. Mattingley, et al. 1923 The Roman Coinage (London). 

M. K. Clark, 1935 A Gazetteer of Roman Remains in East Yorkshire (Leeds). 

F. Elgee, 1923 The Romans in Cleveland (York). 



W. Hornsby and J. D. Laverick, 1932 ‘A Roman Signal-Station at Goldsborough’, Arch. Journ. LXXXIX, 

C. Peers and C. A. R. Radford, 1943 ‘The Saxon Monastery of Whitby’, Archaeologia LXXXIX, 27-88. 

D. C. A. Shotter, 1978 ‘Unpublished Roman Hoards in the Wisbech and Fenland Museum’, Coin Hoards 
IV, 47 - 5 °- 

D. C. A. Shotter, 1994 ‘Rome and the Brigantes: Early Hostilities’, CW 2 XGIV, 21-34. 

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol.yi, iggg 



By Christopher Norton 

The two grandest buildings ever to grace the skyline of the city of York were started 
within a few years of each other towards the end of the eleventh century. The 
Romanesque cathedral of Archbishop Thomas of Bayeux was gradually replaced in a 
succession of piecemeal reconstructions which resulted in the Gothic Minster which we 
see today. Long the subject of speculation, the outlines of the Romanesque church have 
finally been revealed in the major excavations carried out under the Minster in recent 
decades and in the subsequent publication. 1 The contemporary church at St Mary’s 
Abbey, begun by Abbot Stephen of Whitby, was destroyed in a single campaign towards 
the end of the thirteenth century which resulted in the construction of a complete new 
Gothic church, the remains of which still stand in the Museum Gardens. Practically 
nothing of the Romanesque church was preserved above ground level, and its rediscovery 
has been a slow and fragmented process. Sections of the foundations were uncovered in 
different campaigns of excavation between the 1820s and the 1950s, and it is only recently 
that the evidence, published and unpublished, has been brought together to make possible 
a re-assessment of the Romanesque church. 2 

The known foundations consist of almost all of the eastern arm of the church east of 
the crossing, and various sections of the foundations of the arcades and south wall of the 
nave (Fig. 1). Since it is clear that the nave and transepts of the Gothic church were built 
over the foundations of its predecessor (though on a slightly different alignment), it is 
possible to reconstruct the church in its entirety, in its broad outlines at least. Unlike the 
unusual and rather idiosyncratic Romanesque Minster, the church of St Mary’s Abbey 
was of standard basilican form with an aisled nave, projecting transepts flanking, presum- 
ably, a central crossing tower, and a graduated series of seven apsidal chapels to the east. 
The first two chapels on either side opened off the transepts, the outermost ones being 
distinctly smaller than their neighbours. The third chapel on either side, flanking the 
chancel and corresponding to the nave aisles, projected further eastwards and, though 
apsidal on the inside, was squared off on the outside. The chancel, which was probably 
separated from its flanking chapels by solid walls, terminated in a semi-circular apse 
almost the width of the central vessel of the church. The projections of the two transepts 
beyond the aisles were roughly square in plan. The regular aisled nave was presumably 
of eight bays, like its Gothic successor, and like it would probably have had four doorways: 
two in the south aisle wall in the first and sixth bays opening into the cloister; a central 
west doorway; and a northern entrance in the seventh bay of the north aisle wall. There 

1 D. Phillips, The Cathedral of Archbishop Thomas of Bayeux: Excavations at York Minster, vol. 2 (Royal Commission 
on the Historical Monuments of England) (London, 1985). 

2 C. Wilson and J. Burton, St Mary’s Abbey, York (Yorkshire Museum, York, 1988), p. 7; C. Norton, ‘The 
buildings of St Mary’s Abbey, York and their destruction’, Antiquaries Journal, vol. LXXIV (1994), pp. 256-88, 
esp. pp. 257-64; J. Bilson, ‘The eleventh-century east-ends of St Augustine’s, Canterbury and St Mary’s, 
York’, Archaeological Journal, vol. LXIII (1906), pp. 106 16. 



were apparently no western towers. In plan, therefore, the church conformed to a well- 
known Anglo-Norman Romanesque type. The purpose of the present note is to explore 
what can be deduced from the known foundations about the process of design, and to 
clarify the evidence for the chronology of construction. 

The designs of medieval churches were usually drawn up by means of geometrical 
methods using rulers, compasses and set-squares. 3 A series of geometrical shapes and 
proportions could be used to create a design which could, theoretically, be built on any 
scale. Thus the basic building blocks were such simple shapes as squares, rectangles, 
triangles and circles, which could be related to each other by a series of geometrical 
proportions, such as i : 2, 2 : 3, 3 : 5, 1 \^2 (1:1 .4142), or 2:^3 (2 : 1 .732). These last two, 
which arithmetically appear very complex, are geometrically very simple, being respect- 
ively the proportion of the side of a square to the diagonal of the same square (using 
Pythagoras’ theorem), and the proportion of the side of an equilateral triangle to the 
height of the same triangle (Fig. 2a, c). The system can best be understood by envisaging 
the steps by which the church of St Mary’s Abbey could have been designed. 

Once the master mason and the abbot have agreed on the basics of the plan and scale 
of the church, the master mason has to translate the rough ideas into a working design. 
The first stage will be to work out the overall plan of the church, before proceeding to 
the details. Let us assume that he starts with the width of the nave and the chancel, 
which appears to have been a common starting point. At this stage he is dealing not with 
actual dimensions, but only with the geometry of the plan. The width of the nave and 
chancel can be assigned a value x. From this it easily follows that the central crossing 
tower will be a square of dimensions x x x (Fig. 3a). The width of the aisles can then be 
fixed at half the width of the central vessel, i.e. \x. The total width of the church, nave 
and aisles, will therefore be 2x (Fig. 3b). Next, the length of the eastern arm can be 
determined. The length of the chapels flanking the chancel from the eastern side of the 
crossing can be x, and the length of the chancel 2X. This means that, if the crossing is a 
square of xxx, the eastern arm is inscribed within a square 2x x 2x (Fig. 3c). Then the 
transepts. The transept projections can be planned as squares of equal size to the crossing, 
x x x, and the main transept chapel on either side can be designed as half the length of 
the chapels flanking the chancel, \x (Fig. 3d). The east-west width of the transepts includ- 
ing the projecting chapels, ijX, will therefore be the same as the north-south length of 
the transepts from the end walls to the crossing; and the total width of the church across 
the transepts will be 4X, twice the width of the main body of the church. 

Up to this point, the mason has turned the design in his mind into an outline sketch 
using a series of extremely simple shapes and proportions — in fact, nothing more 
complex than squares and rectangles in units of 1 and 2. In order to translate the 
sketch into a working drawing from which, ultimately the church can be built, he will 
need to provide some actual dimensions, by giving an arithmetical value to x. He will 
also have to start thinking about the thickness of the walls, since so far he has no more 
than a linear sketch. To build the church, actual dimensions are needed both for walls 

3 The methodology for analysing the dimensions and proportions of medieval buildings has been most fully 
elaborated by Professor Peter Kidson and Professor Eric Fernie; see for instance T. Cocke and P. Kidson, 
Salisbury Cathedral: Perspectives on the Architectural History (Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of 
England, London, 1993), pp. 62-82; E. Fernie, ‘Historical metrology and architectural history’, Art History , 
vol. I.4 (1978), pp. 383 -99; id., ‘A beginner’s guide to the study of architectural proportions and systems of 
length’, in Medieval Architecture and its Intellectual Context: Studies in Honour of Peter Kidson, ed. E. Fernie and 
P. Crossley (London, 1990), pp. 229-37; id., An Architectural History of Norwich Cathedral (Oxford, 1993), esp. 
pp. 94 100. I am indebted to Professor Fernie for his comments on this paper. 






Fig. 2. (a-c) Diagrams showing common geometric ratios, (d— e) Diagrams showing derivation of dimen- 
sions from a square of 33 ft and 27 ft 4 ins. (f) Diagram showing dimensions across the chancel/nave 
and flanking chapels/aisles, with proportions of 1 : 2: 1 (above) and 1 : 1.4 142 : 1 (below), assuming total 
interior width of 66 ft and wall-thicknesses of 5 ft 8 ins (not to scale). 

and for voids . 4 By the same token, it is by measuring an actual building and working out 
the dimensions and proportions that it is possible for us to work backwards to deducing 
the design stages followed by the mason. 

4 It may be noted that the sketch-book of Villard de Honnecourt of about 1230 from northern France 
includes both church ground-plans showing the thickness of the walls, much like any modern architectural 
plan, and one simple linear sketch-plan of a church comparable to my Fig. 3: see H. R. Hanloser, Villard de 
Honnecourt , 2nd edn (Graz, 1972), plates 28 33. 



A C 

Fig. 3. Sketch diagrams of possible phases in the design of the plan of the abbey church of St Mary’s, 




It is no easy matter to measure a great cathedral or abbey church; equally, it is 
unrealistic to suppose that the measurements of the actual buildings will correspond 
precisely to the designed dimensions, in view of the inevitable variations and deviations 
which are bound to occur in structures which may be hundreds of feet long. However, 
where dimensions have been established, they usually turn out to be within a few inches 
of the theoretical values. The more consistently this is the case, the more convincing the 
explanation. At St Mary’s Abbey, all we have to go on is a composite plan, deriving from 
a series of different excavations, which shows only parts of the church, and then only at 
foundation level. However, the dimensions which can be derived from the plan are 
sufficiently consistent and convincing to encourage us to proceed with some confidence. 5 
The most reliable dimension that can be measured is the width of the chancel. The 
distance between the centre of the foundations of the north and south chancel walls 
should correspond to the width of the structure above. It is approximately 33 ft; 6 so, in 
terms of our previous diagram, ^ = 33 ft. If we assume that the inner and outer faces of 
the walls were normally set back a foot or so from the faces of the foundations, 7 * * the 
following dimensions appear to fit exactly, as can be seen from Fig. 4, where the dimen- 
sions which have been calculated have been marked on the plan of the church. 

The central vessel is 33 ft (x) wide, measuring from the middle of the chancel walls. 
From this it follows that the crossing is a square 33 ft by 33 ft (measuring from the centre 
points of the crossing piers), and that the central vessel of the nave is also 33 ft wide. 
The chancel aisles are 16 ft 6 ins wide (t>a), measuring to the assumed inner faces of the 
outer walls, and they project 33 ft (x) east of the east side of the crossing (again measuring 
to the inside of the apse). The assumed inner face of the main apse is 66 ft (2x) east of 
the east side of the crossing, and therefore 99 ft (3*) east of the west side of the crossing. 

Before proceeding any further, it is necessary to establish the thickness of the walls. 
At this point we encounter for the first time the ratio 1:^/2 (1 : 1.4142), the ratio between 
the side of a square and its diagonal. All of the following dimensions can be derived from 
33 ft using this ratio or its derivatives, as can be seen from the accompanying diagram 
(Fig. 2d,e). 33 ft x 1.4142=46 ft 8 ins. Taking away 33 ft, this leaves 13 ft 8 ins 
( = 33 ft x 0.4142). This, it can be suggested, will be the interior width of the chapels 
flanking the chancel from the outer face of the inner wall to the inner face of the outer 
wall. The same dimension, 13 ft 8 ins, will be half of the width of the central vessel, 
measuring between the inner faces of the two walls. The central vessel will therefore 
measure 1 3 ft 8 ins x 2 = 27 ft 4 ins. Out of a total width of the eastern arm between the 
inner faces of the outer walls of 66 ft, 13 ft 8 ins + 27 ft 4 ins + 13 ft 8 ins = 54 ft 8 ins 
are taken up with the voids of the aisles and central vessel. The two dividing walls or 
arcades must therefore measure 1 1 ft 4 ins between them, or 5 ft 8 ins each. Another 
way of arriving at the same figures is to say that the ratio of the width of each flanking 

5 - The plan of the eastern arm is derived from plans of three different excavations carried out between 
1827 an h l 9 12 - The fact that those plans show the Romanesque east end at a slight angle to the axis of the 
Gothic eastern arm increases our confidence in their reliability, since the significance of this deviation has 
only been recently understood or even, it seems, noticed (Norton, loc. cit.). 

6 - This dimension is taken from the plans of the early twentieth-century excavations (Norton, op. cit., p. 283, 
note 4). The width of the Gothic nave can be measured from the in situ west responds of the north and south 
arcades incorporated in the surviving fragment of the west wall of the nave. From the centre of one respond 
to the centre of the other is 35 ft 4 ins. However, the plans of the 1950s excavations show that the Gothic 
nave was about two feet wider than its Romanesque predecessor (see Norton, op. cit., fig. 1), presumably 
because the Gothic arcade walls were rebuilt thinner than those of the Romanesque church. So an estimate 
of 33 ft for the width of the Romanesque nave cannot be far off. 

7 The foundations throughout the church are generally about 8 ft wide. The plan of the principal chapel 

in the south transept (see note 5) shows the inner face of part of the north wall of the chapel, set back a 

distance of 1 ft 3 ins from the face of the foundations. 

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chapel to the width of the chapel plus the dividing wall is i : 1.4 142, for 13 ft 8 ins x 
1.4142 = 19 ft 4 ins, and 13 ft 8 ins + 5 ft 8 ins =19 ft 4 ins. Or again, 19 ft 4 ins x 
1.4142 = 27 ft 4 ins, so the dimensions of the aisles plus the dividing walls or arcades and 
the width of the central vessel, namely 19 ft 4 ins : 27 ft 4 ins : 19 ft 4 ins, are in the ratio 
1 : 1. 4 1 42: 1. Arithmetically, these figures may seem complex to derive: geometrically, 
they are very simple. For a square revolved on its central point by 45 produces three 
dimensions precisely in the proportions 1 : 1.4 142: 1 (see Fig. 2b). So a square of 66 ft 
(i.e. the interior width of the church) turned by 45° produces the dimensions 19 ft 4 
ins: 27 ft 4 ins: 19 ft 4 ins (Fig. 2f). The width of the dividing walls or arcades and of 
the aisles follow automatically. 8 

If we take the thickness of the outer walls to be 5 ft 8 ins as well, the total exterior 
width of the chancel and flanking chapels will be 66 ft + 1 1 ft 4 ins = 77 ft 4 ins. This 
may seem a random number, but it is the diagonal of a square of 54 ft 8 ins (i.e. 54 ft 
8 ins x 1. 4142 = 77 ft 4 ins), and 54 ft 8 ins is twice the width of the central vessel, 27 ft 
4 ins, or, alternatively, equals the clear interior width of the nave and aisles (13 ft 
6 ins + 27 ft 4 ins +13 ft 6 ins). Furthermore, 27 ft 4 ins -f- 1 .4142 = 19 ft 4 ins, which is 
(as we have seen) the width of the flanking chapel plus one wall (13 ft 8 ins + 5 ft 8 ins); 
and 19 ft 4 ins multiplied by four is 77 ft 4 ins. Indeed, the width of the church can be 
read in a number of different ways which represent a number of different ratios. The 
total interior width, 66 ft, can be divided into central vessel and chapels down the centre 
of the dividing wall or arcade, which gives a ratio of 1:2: 1 (16 ft 6 ins : 33 ft : 16 ft 6 ins) 
(Fig. 2f). Or, as we have seen, it can be read as a central vessel of 27 ft 4 ins flanked by 
aisles of half the width plus arcades/walls totalling 19 ft 4 ins, which gives a ratio of 
1 : 1. 4142 : 1 (19 ft 4 ins: 27 ft 4 ins: 19 ft 4 ins) (Fig. 2f). And 66 ft x 1.1716 gives the 
total exterior width, 77 ft 4 ins. All of these measurements will apply equally to the 
eastern arm and to the walls, aisles, arcades and central vessel of the nave. 

Having come this far, it is possible to complete the design of the transepts. The east 
and west walls of the transept (which is aisleless) align with the centres of the piers of 
the central tower. 33 ft (x) will therefore be the width of the transepts from the middle 
of one wall to the middle of the other. Assuming walls of the same thickness, this gives 
a total of 33 ft + 5 ft 8 ins = 38 ft 8 ins for the exterior width, and 33 ft — 5 ft 8 ins = 
27 ft 4 ins for the interior width. 27 ft 4 ins is, as we have seen, the same as the interior 
width of the chancel, and 38 ft 8 ins equals the chancel plus the two flanking walls. 
Furthermore, 38 ft 8 ins equals 27 ft 4 ins x 1.4142. The length of the transepts is again 
33 ft (x), measuring from the inner face of the aisle walls to the inner face of the end 
walls: the outer face of the transept walls will again be at 38 ft 8 ins assuming the same 
thickness of wall. The interior dimensions of the transepts are therefore 49 ft 6 ins 
(ijx) x 27 ft 4 ins (xx 0.8284) from the end wall to the centre of the crossing arch, and 
33 ft x 27 ft 4 ins excluding the space which is the equivalent to the aisle: this is half the 
interior length of the chancel east of the crossing (66 ft x 27 ft 4 ins). Or again, measuring 
from the outer face of the aisle wall or respond, the interior of the transept is 27 ft 4 ins 
square. The principal transept chapel, it was suggested above, is likely to have been 
designed as 16 ft 6 ins (^x) in length (Fig. 3d). However, it appears from the plan that in 
this case, uniquely, this dimension gives the exterior face of the apse wall, not the interior 
face (Fig. 4). The walls of the apses are thinner than the other exterior walls, as 
they bear little weight. The main eastern chapel off each transept is likely to have been 

8 Exactly the same system of proportions is used to determine the dimensions of the nave, aisles and arcades 
at Norwich Cathedral (Fernie, Architectural History , pp. 95-96). 



13 ft 8 ins wide. If the dividing wall or pier is again 5 ft 8 ins wide, then the outermost 
chapel will be 8 ft wide (again a ratio of 1 : 1.4 142). 

It remains to establish the length of the nave. The Romanesque foundations of the 
west wall have not been uncovered, so the precise length of the nave is not known. But 
the foundations of the Gothic west wall are about 15 ft thick, and presumably enclose 
the Romanesque foundations. As the eastern face of the Gothic west wall is close to the 
east face of the Gothic foundations, it can be assumed that the Romanesque foundations 
and the eastern face of the Romanesque west wall were both slightly further to the west. 
This means that the Romanesque nave must have been slightly over 150 ft in length. It 
is possible to suggest that the theoretical length of the Romanesque nave from the west 
side of the crossing to the interior of the west wall was 154 ft 8 ins. This represents eight 
bays 19 ft 4 ins wide, this being a dimension we have already met in the eastern arm. 
And it would give an interior dimension for the main nave bays of 27 ft 4 ins x 19 ft 
4 ins, and for the aisle bays of 13 ft 8 ins x 19 ft 4 ins: in each case, the ratio between 
the two dimensions is 1 : 1.4 142. 154 ft 8 ins is also exactly twice the exterior width of 
the nave and aisles, assuming them to be of the same width as the chancel and flanking 
chapels, which has already been calculated at 77 ft 4 ins. The nave therefore can be 
understood as a double square. 

One final dimension may be suggested. In monasteries, the length of the cloister 
compared to the length of the nave is sometimes in the ratio of 1 : 1.4 142. To put it 
another way, the length of the nave is the same as the diagonal of the cloister. 9 The 
foundations of the Romanesque cloister have not been revealed, and the plan of the 
Gothic cloister exhibits certain irregularities which have not been explained (and which 
have been ‘regularised’ on some of the published plans). 10 Nevertheless, from the angle 
of the south aisle and the south transept, a distance of 154 ft 8 ins diagonally across the 
cloister arrives at a point close to the south-west corner of the Gothic cloister. So it is 
reasonable to suppose that this was how the cloister was envisaged on the original sketch 
design (Fig. 3e). A square with a diagonal of 154 ft 8 ins has sides of 109 ft 4 ins (Fig. 2e). 
In terms of the original geometric design, 154 ft 8 ins = 4§v, and 109 ft 4 inches = 33V. 1 1 

Whether or not the precise dimensions and the precise steps in the design process 
which I have suggested are correct, it is by now reasonably clear that St Mary’s Abbey 
church was designed using a system of geometric shapes and proportions which, when 
translated into actual dimensions, reveals itself through the repeated use of a related set 
of figures and results in the repeated appearance of certain ratios and proportions. On 
the large scale, we can identify many common proportions linking the various parts of 

9 - As at Norwich, for instance (Fernie, Architectural History , pp. 92—94). 

10 - Norton, op. cit., pp. 264 68. 

11 In several contemporary churches, the length of the nave multiplied by 1.4 142 gives the position of the 
chord of the main apse. But Norwich, Ely and Winchester (see Fernie, E., ‘The grid system and the design 
of the Norman Cathedral’, in Medieval Art and Architecture at Winchester Cathedral , eel. T. A. Heslop and V. A. 
Sekules (British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions vol. 6) (1983), pp. 13-19, and references 
cited in notes 3 and 18) all have exceptionally long naves, where these proportions generate generous eastern 
arms. This is not the case at St Mary’s Abbey. 154 ft 8 ins x 1.4 142 gives 218 ft 9 ins, a point well to the 
west of the chord of the main apse. The precise position of the chord cannot be established from the plan, 
but the apse was evidently narrower than the chancel, which measured 27 ft 4 ins wide. One might suggest 
that the apse was 22 ft 8 ins wide, with a radius of 1 1 ft 4 ins, since this would place the chord of the apse 
54 ft 8 ins east of the east crossing arch. This would make the interior length for the chancel (minus the apse) 
twice its width (27 ft 4 ins). It would mean that the eastern arm of the church east of the crossing (minus the 
apse) would be exactly 100 ft less than the nave of the church west of the crossing (154 ft 8 ins). And it would 
also mean that the eastern arm of the church from the west side of the crossing (but excluding the apse, 
which was often treated in design terms as an appendage), measuring 87 ft 8 ins, was in a ration of approxi- 
mately 8_: 14 to the length of the nave (154 ft 8 ins). 8:14 was a recognised approximation for the common 
ratio 7 t 



the church: 1:2, 2:3, 3:4, 6:7 (width across transepts to length of nave), 9*14 (length 
of the church east of the west side of the crossing to length of nave), and so on, as well 
as 1:^2 (1 : 1. 4 1 42) and all its associates. This system of design can be identified at a 
number of Romanesque churches, but it should be stressed that there was nothing 
mechanical about the process, which could be used to design buildings of quite different 
shapes, sizes and proportions. 12 The master mason still had to create in his mind the 
overall shapes and proportions of the church, so as to reconcile the needs of the patrons, 
his own aesthetic and architectural aims, and the technical limitations of construction at 
the time. But by drawing out a schema of shapes, dimensions and proportions in advance 
(not entirely dissimilar, perhaps, to Fig. 2), he had a number of ready-made lengths from 
which he could chose whatever dimension was appropriate for his needs. This could be 
transferred instantly onto a drawing using a pair of compasses. When the time came to 
work out precise dimensions, it was only necessary to establish the entire series of numbers 
used on the geometric schema once, and then apply them to the design. At a later stage, 
for the same reasons, the actual setting out of the walls on site would be facilitated by 
this system. By using shapes and numbers in this way, therefore, the master mason made 
his own job much simpler, and avoided the necessity for choosing dimensions at random. 
The result was both easier, and much more elegant mathematically and intellectually, in 
so far as proportion and relation was built into the structure from the outset. 

For those of a mystical or symbolic frame of mind, such a system could have seemed 
not just elegant or even beautiful, but to contain deeper meanings than the purely 
practical. For those of a Platonising bent, this kind of system of design could have seemed 
to echo their understanding of the cosmos as a whole as being founded upon number 
and proportion. The personification of Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs (8.27—29) 
describes the divine act of creation in geometric terms: 13 

When He prepared the heavens, I was present; 

When with a certain law and compass He enclosed the depths; 

When He established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters; 

When He compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters that they should not 
pass their limits; 

When He balanced the foundations of the earth; 

I was with Him forming all things, and was delighted every day, playing before Him at all times. 

Similarly, the famous passage at the end of the Book ofjob refers to the divine creation 
in terms of architectural design and construction (Job 38.4-7): 

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? 

Tell me if thou hast understanding. 

Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? 

Or who hath stretched the line upon it? 

Upon what are its bases grounded? 

12 - Compare two almost contemporary buildings: Norwich Cathedral, very different in design and proportion 
(Fernie, Architectural History ), and Selby Abbey church, which is in overall size and shape very similar to St 
Mary’s Abbey, but is designed using different proportions and dimensions (see E. Fernie, ‘The Romanesque 
church of Selby Abbey’, in Yorkshire Monasticism: Archaeology, Art and Architecture, from the seventh to sixteenth centuries , 
ed. L. R. Hoey (British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions, vol. 16 (1995), pp. 40 -49.) 

13 - Versions from the Douay Rheims Bible, being a translation of the Latin Vulgate. It may be noted in 
passing that one of the manuscripts which survives from St Mary’s Abbey is a much-thumbed copy, of perhaps 
early twelfth-century date, of the Latin translation of Plato’s Timaeus. The Timaeus was the only Platonic 
dialogue accessible in the West at the time, and it describes the creation of the cosmos by the divine demiurge 

a philosophical parallel to the biblical creation passages. See A Catalogue of the Manuscripts preserved in the Library 
of the University of Cambridge, 5 vols (Cambridge, 1856-67), vol. 2, p. 277, ms Ee VI 40. 



Or who laid die corner stone thereof, 

When the morning stars praised me together, 

And all the sons of God made a joyful melody? 

It is these images which underlie the pictures of God as a master mason with compass 
in his hands, and they could give encouragement to the view that proportion and number 
could contain meaning. In the case of the design of St Mary’s Abbey, the two most 
significant whole numbers are 27 ft and 33 ft (the width of the chancel inside the flanking 
walls, and from the middle of the walls). 27 is nothing other than 3x3x3, whose 
Trinitarian meaning needs no explanation, while 33, as well as containing only the digit 
3, is the product of 3 and 1 1, in which could therefore be seen concealed the Trinitarian 
3-in- 1. Likewise the interior length of the transepts, 132, contains the numbers referring 
to the Three Persons of the Trinity. 1 , 2 and 3 added together make 6; multiplied together 
they also make 6; 66 is half of 132. Sixty-six is also twice 33, while the number 99 is 
composed of 3 x 3 plus 3x3.^ round numbers, 33 is one third of 100. The square root 
of 100 is 10. Ten is the sum of the numbers 2, 5 and 3; and 253 ft is the total interior 
length of the church. And so on. We can only speculate to what extent considerations 
such as these would have been of any interest either to the masons (whose job was 
fundamentally practical) or to Abbot Stephen and his monks. 

Why did the masons use the numbers 27 and 33 as the basic units of length? In many 
cases, the dimensions of churches were pre-determined by pre-existing structures which 
were being added to or replaced, especially in such fundamentals as the width of the 
chancel. St Mary’s Abbey church was a completely new beginning, so the masons could 
have chosen any dimensions they wanted. The reasons are probably practical. The dimen- 
sions 33 and 27 seem to recur in a number of medieval churches, and it is probably 
because of their utility. It is for the same reason that the basic unit is probably exactly 
33 ft, rather than exactly 27 ft. 33 ft, as we have seen, gives rise to a whole series of 
other numbers, which, if they are not whole numbers, all approximate very closely to 
simple fractions of a foot, that is, one-third, one half, two-thirds or 4 ins, 6 ins and 8 ins. 
Thus 27 ft 4 ins is a derivative of 33 ft. By contrast, the same series of calculations starting 
from 27 ft gives rise to much more variable and awkward numbers. For instance, the 
equivalent of 33 ft in a series based on 27 ft is 32 ft 7 ins. Thirty-three is simply a very 
much easier number to start from. It also, of course, approximates to one-third of 100, 
and is exactly 1 1 yards, which is one-twentieth of a furlong, and a furlong is one-eighth 
of a mile; so 33 ft is exactly 1/ 160th of a mile. On both the large scale and the small 
scale, 33 is a much more convenient number to start with. 

One corollary of all this is that St Mary’s Abbey was indeed designed using standard 
English feet. This may seem unsurprising, but it is generally said that the standard English 
foot was introduced by Henry I. However, it has been argued that the standard foot was 
in use prior to his reign, and it appears to be the basic unit underlying the designs of 
some eleventh-century buildings. 14 The evidence of St Mary’s Abbey supports this view. 

14 - R. D. Connor, The Weights and Measures of England (London, 1987), esp. chs. 3 and 6; P. Kidson, A 
metrological investigation’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes , vol. 53 (1990), pp. 71—97; Fernie, 
‘Historical metrology’, pp. 388-94. E. Fernie, Anglo-Saxon lengths: the ‘Northern’ System, the perch and the 
foot’, Archaeological Journal, vol. CXLII (1985), pp. 246 -54; also J. Bony, ‘The stonework planning of the first 
Durham master’, in Medieval Architecture and its Intellectual Context , pp. 19-34, esp. P- 32, note 15. Phillips, Cathedral 
of Archbishop Thomas of Bayeux , pp. 193, 197- 99 argued that the eleventh-century Minster was designed using 
a slightly shorter foot, equivalent to about 1 1.54 standard inches. However, the dimensions given on the tables 
on pp. 210-13 are consistent with a design based upon the standard English foot. On the possible use of 
different ‘feet’ in York at the time of Domesday Book and subsequently, see D. M. Palliser, Domesday York, 
(Borthwick Paper, 78) (York, 1990), p. 17. 



This entire analysis has been based on a study of a plan of the foundation level of the 
Romanesque church derived from several different campaigns of excavation. The internal 
consistency of the dimensions and proportions may seem, to some, evidence enough of 
their validity. But theoretical analyses should always be checked against measurements 
on the ground. Yet how can they be checked against the actual building, when all that 
remains in situ is a single stump of masonry, representing the base of a stepped buttress 
on the exterior, incorporated into the north wall of the transept of the Gothic church? 
In fact, since all the above calculations were made, it has become apparent that, by 
chance, it is possible to make a fairly precise estimate of the position of the interior face 
of the Romanesque south transept wall, exactly opposite the surviving fragment of the 
north transept wall. At this point, the base of the wall of the south transept of the Gothic 
church survives, together with part of a respond. The plan of the 1827—29 excavations 
shows that the Gothic wall was placed over the foundations of the Romanesque south 
transept wall, but that the face of the Gothic wall was set back three feet or so from the 
face of the Romanesque foundation. It can be assumed that the inner face of the 
Romanesque wall would have been closer to the face of the foundation. A point two feet 
inside the face of the Gothic wall would be a reasonable estimate: it should be within a 
foot of the original inner face of the Romanesque wall. A measurement can be taken 
from that point to the exterior face of the north transept wall fragment. 15 According to 
the calculations given above, the theoretical distance between these two points should 
equal the interior length of the transepts plus the thickness of the north transept wall, 
i.e. 132 ft + 5 ft 8 ins= 137 ft 8 ins. The on-site measurement, which cannot be precise, 
is 138 ft 4 ins. It also turns out that two other small-scale measurements are available to 
us, this time precise. A measured drawing of the Romanesque south transept chapels 
made at the time of the 1827—29 excavations gives the exact width of the larger, inner 
transept chapel and of the east-west width of the north respond of the main arch into 
the chapel. The respond should in principle correspond to the thickness of the main 
transept wall. So, according to the calculations given above, the respond should theoreti- 
cally be 5 ft 8 ins across, and the chapel should be 13 ft 8 ins wide. The dimensions 
recorded in the 1827—29 plan are respectively 5 ft 6 ins and 13 ft 6 ins. 16 

Unfortunately, this is not quite the end of it. For the measured width of the respond, 
5 ft 6 ins, is exactly one-sixth of 33 ft. Ffalf of 33 ft is 16 ft 6 ins; and 16 ft 6 ins precisely 
is known to have been used as a standard perch from Anglo-Saxon times right up to the 

15 - The east-west foundation of the Romanesque south transept wall is shown on the plan published by 
Wellbeloved, which, though small in scale, is remarkably accurate in its details (C. Wellbeloved, ‘Some account 
of the ancient and present state of the Abbey of St Mary, York ...’, Vetusta Monumenta, vol. v (1837), pp. 1—7 
and plates LI-LX; initially published separately, London, 1829). The base of the Gothic south transept wall 
(but not, unfortunately, the relevant piece of the Romanesque foundation) was excavated again recently (N. 
Oakey in Interim, Bulletin of the York Archaeological Trust , vol. XII. 1 (1987), 8 1 3) and has been left exposed. It 
consists of blocks of apparently Romanesque masonry; these I previously suggested might be in situ (Norton, 
op. cit., p. 283, note 15), but re-examination shows that they in fact belong to the Gothic transept wall as 
correctly stated by Oakey, and are therefore reset. The measurement has therefore been taken from a point 
2 ft in from the face of the Gothic wall, corresponding to the inner face of the base of the respond. At the 
north end, the measurement has been taken from the inner corner of the surviving double-stepped buttress, 
since the outer wall-face itself has gone. If the buttress had a further step on it, the face of the wall would be 
about 8 ins further in. 

16 Drawing by Eustachius Strickland preserved in the Yorkshire Museum. The face of the chapel foundation 
and the face of the wall are both shown, on a tiny scale, in the plan published by Wellbeloved, loc. cit. The 
wall-face is set back 1 ft 3 ins from the edge of the foundations (see n. 7). If this were so consistently through 
the church, it confirms the wall-thickness: since the foundations are about 8 ft wide in all, a set-back of about 
1 ft 3 ins on either side would give a wall-thickness of about 5 ft 6 ins or 5 ft 8 ins, as I have suggested on 
other grounds. 



present. 17 Could St Mary’s Abbey have been designed using the Anglo-Saxon perch as 
a basic unit of measurement? In fact, if we assume that all the dimensions of 1 6 ft 6 ins 
and 33 ft already calculated remain constant (as being i perch and 2 perches exactly), 
but recalculate the other dimensions assuming a wall-thickness of 5 ft 6 ins (one-third of 
a perch) — rather than 5 ft 8 ins as proposed above — then it turns out that all the 
dimensions can be expressed in multiples of one-sixth of a perch (2 ft 9 ins). It is not 
necessary here to go over all the dimensions again, but the key ones become as follows 
(previous calculations in brackets): 

5 ft 6 ins [5 ft 8 ins] 

13 ft 9 ins [13 ft 8 ins] 

19 ft 3 ins [19 ft 4 ins] 

27 ft 6 ins [27 ft 4 ins] 

77 ft o ins [77 ft 4 ins] 

154 ft o ins [154 ft 8 ins] 

This means that some of the large dimensions work out more exactly (in terms of feet) 
than before, i.e. the exterior width of the main body of the church is exactly 77 ft, and 
the interior length of the nave is exactly 154 ft. On the other hand, these dimensions 
result in a less precise geometry. For instance, the ratio between the aisle width and the 
aisle plus arcade, 13 ft 9 ins: 19 ft 3 ins is arithmetically precise at 5:7; and 5:7 is a 
recognised approximation to the ratio 1:^/2. However, this is a less exact approximation 
than that which results from the other set of calculations, i.e. 13 ft 8 ins: 19 ft 4 ins. 
Similarly, in the nave, eight bays of 19 ft 4 ins gave, as we saw, aisle bays of 13 ft 
8 ins x 19 ft 4 ins, and nave bays of 19 ft 4 ins x 27 ft 4 ins, both very close approximations 
of The equivalent dimensions using the new figures are 13 ft 9 ins x 19 ft 3 ins 

and 19 ft 3 ins x 27 ft 6 ins. These are arithmetically precise at 5 : 7 and 7:10 respectively, 
which both approximate to 1:^/2, but less closely. 

The differences are, of course, tiny in actual dimensions; not more than 8 ins over the 
entire interior length of the church. The scale, proportions and dimensions of the church 
are, in essence, identical using either system. In other words, the basic geometry of the 
church, as set out above and in Fig. 3, is unaffected; the two sets of figures simply represent 
two different ways of generating actual dimensions to enable the church to be built 
physically. The first system, using feet and inches, is geometrically more precise but 
arithmetically less tidy; conversely, the second system, using perches and fractions thereof, 
is arithmetically simpler but geometrically less exact. It can only be a matter of judgement 
as to which system was used to generate the actual dimensions. The two short measure- 
ments taken from the remains of the north transept, 5 ft 6 ins and 13 ft 6 ins, are 
marginally closer to the theoretical values based on the perch (5 ft 6 ins and 1 3 ft 9 ins) 
than those based on feet and inches (5 ft 8 ins and 13 ft 8 ins). Late eleventh-century 
masonry is markedly less exact than that of churches constructed even a few decades 
later, and much less precise than most later Gothic structures. Mortar joints can easily 
be half-an-inch thick, and measurements taken from standing buildings suggest something 
less than exactitude in setting-out and constructing churches. It may therefore be that 
the geometrically less precise, but arithmetically simpler system of dimensions based on 
the perch was perfectly adequate, and an easier means of translating the geometry of the 
design into an actual building. 

But if this were so, would it mean that in fact the church of St Mary’s Abbey was not 
designed using standard feet and inches at all; and that, consequently, any possible 

17 Fernie, ‘Anglo-Saxon lengths’, p. 249. 



mathematical elegance or symbolic significance in the numbers is totally illusory? It is 
possible, but not, I suggest, likely. The two systems are not necessarily alternatives, which 
happen coincidentally to come together at 33 ft — 2 perches. Rather, they could be two 
ways of describing or envisaging the same dimensions. Just as we might say 5 yards rather 
than 15 ft, without any suggestion that we are using a completely different set of measures, 
so perhaps the mason might find it more convenient to think in terms of 1 perch instead 
of 16 ft 6 ins, or one-third of a perch instead of 5 ft 6 ins. An analogy is provided 
by pre-decimal coinage. When medieval accountants described a sum of money as 
100 marks, it did not mean that they were suddenly abandoning pounds, shillings and 
pence for a new system. It was just an easier way of referring to two-thirds of £100, or 
£66 1 3 s. 4 d. Similarly, until very recently, to talk of half-a-crown did not imply a com- 
pletely different method of reckoning money; it was merely a more convenient way of 
describing one-eighth of a pound, or 2s. 6d. Crowns and marks are simply different ways 
of describing certain fractions of the pound; but they still presuppose the same system of 
pounds, shillings and pence. Likewise, if we take 33 ft as the basic unit of measurement, 
feet and inches provide convenient small-scale subdivisions. For larger amounts, it may 
be easier to calculate using larger fractions. One yard is 1/1 ith of 33 ft; a precise fraction 
but not a convenient one for calculations. 2 ft 9 ins, however (i.e. half of 5 ft 6 ins or 
1 /6th of a perch of 16 ft 6 ins), is 1/ 12th of 33 ft (i.e. 33 ins), a very convenient fraction 
arithmetically. For although 1.4 142 is an irrational number, a close approximation to it 
is 1 and 5/i2ths (1.4166). Similarly, the other numbers which commonly appear as 
derivatives of 2 can also be expressed in fairly close approximations in terms of 1 2ths: 
0.4142 approximates to 5/i2ths (0.4166); 0.8284 approximates to io/i2ths; 0.1716 
approximates to 2/ i2ths (0.1666). This means that for any sequence of dimensions gener- 
ated geometrically using the proportion i:y2, it would be possible to calculate close 
arithmetical approximations, just so long as the basic unit of measurement was divisible 
into i2ths. Hence the utility of the unit of 33 ft = 2 perches: not only, as we saw earlier, 
does it generate a useful series of dimensions calculated in feet and inches; it also is 
divisible into 1 2ths from which can be generated a simple series of arithmetical approxi- 
mations to yj ~2 and its derivatives. In short, a mason calculating in measures of one-sixth 
of a perch was not, I suggest, using a different system of measures; he was using the same 
standard measures as are also expressed in feet and inches, but calculating them according 
to different fractions of the basic unit of design, 33 ft = 2 perches. 

If this is right, the argument over whether masons designed in terms of feet and inches, 
or of perches and fractions of perches, is in fact a non-issue: 18 they are simply different 
ways of calculating arithmetically on the basis of an identical system of measures. To 
design a church in terms of perches is at one and the same time to design in feet and 
inches, just as an accountant might write 100 marks, but would add up the sum as £66 
13V 4 d.\ they are merely different ways of expressing the same thing. All of which means, 
as regards St Mary’s Abbey church, that the design was created geometrically around a 
system of dimensions and proportions in which * = 33 ft = 2 perches; and that when 
translating the design into arithmetical values, the mason could have expressed his ideas 
either in perches and its fractions, or, if he wanted a more exact representation of the 
geometry of the design, in feet and inches. They provide two alternative methods of 
turning geometry into arithmetic (Fig. 4). 

18 - Compare E. Fernie, ‘Observations on the Norman plan of Ely Cathedral’, in Adedieval Art and Architecture 
at Ely Cathedral (British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions, vol. 2, 1979), pp. 1 -7, where he 
rejects the perch at Ely, and Fernie, ‘Anglo-Saxon lengths’, p. 250 where he accepts it: the measurements 
themselves are identical. 



Work began on the church in 1088. Early in that year William Rufus came to York 
and participated in a formal foundation ceremony for the abbey, accompanied by a 
distinguished company of barons and ecclesiastical dignitaries. There has been some 
uncertainty about the date of the ceremony, since one, rather brief source gives a date 
of 1089. But this is clearly a late and inaccurate summary. 19 There is no reason to doubt 
the date of 1088 given in the narrative account of the foundation of the abbey written 
by Abbot Stephen of Whitby. It has been stated quite frequently that on this occasion 
William Rufus gave land adjacent to the Church of St Olaf for the construction of the 
new abbey church. This however is a misunderstanding, partly resulting from the fact 
that there is a misprint in the printed version of the Latin text. What it actually says is 
that he was the first person to open the ground for the laying of the foundations of the 
new church, i.e. he ceremonially cut the first turf to inaugurate the work. The ceremony 
was probably arranged at short notice to take advantage of the king’s presence at York, 
the establishment of the new monastery having been vigorously opposed by Archbishop 
Thomas of Bayeux, so it is possible that the design of the new church had hardly pro- 
gressed beyond the outline stage. However, once begun, there is no reason to suppose 
that the work was not prosecuted with vigour and determination. 

About the stages and speed of construction we know only a little. A charter dated to 
c. 1 100-06 recording a donation to the monastery indicates that part of the church was 
functioning at that time. 20 It states that the charter of donation was ceremonially placed 
upon an altar — presumably the high altar — in the presence of a large crowd of people 
in the church. What is also particularly interesting is that among the witnesses to the 
charter, who are headed by Abbot Stephen, is one Gerardus cementarius (mason). It cannot 
always be assumed that the appearance of a mason among the witnesses of a donation 
to a church indicates that he was working on that church, since it is often quite unclear 
where a charter was given. But in this case, since it is stated unequivocally that Gerard 
the mason was in St Mary’s Abbey church along with Abbot Stephen and others, we are 
justified in identifying him as the master mason in charge of the building. From this it is 
a short step to propose that Gerard the mason was also the man who designed the church 
at the outset, although it cannot of course be proved that he had not arrived on the 
scene subsequently. In either case, it is rare indeed at this early date to be able to identify 
the master mason of a great Romanesque church. 21 

Another charter provides evidence that work on the church was drawing to a close in 
the 1 1 20s. It is a charter granting to the abbey the tithes from a certain property to go 
towards the covering or roofing of the church [ad ecclesiam cooperiendam ). The grantor was 
Fulk, steward to the Percies, and it has been dated from the list of witnesses to the period 
c. 1 120— 35. 22 Now Fulk was the son of Reinfrid, the man who had founded a monastic 
community at Whitby in the 1070s, a community from which both St Mary’s Abbey and 
Whitby Abbey traced their descent. Reinfrid had entered the religious life in the early 
1 070s. 23 Unless, when he did so, he abandoned an underage son, Fulk must have been 
at least 65 years old by 1120. It seems likely therefore that the charter dates closer to 
1 120 than 1 135. 

19 - The evidence for the foundation ceremony is discussed in Norton, op. cit., pp. 280 82. 

2° p r i n t ec j i n Early Yorkshire Charters , vol. 2, ed. W. Farrer, (Edinburgh, 1915), p. 133, no. 791. 

21 No mason called Gerard earlier than the thirteenth century is listed in J. H. Harvey, English Medieval 
Architects: a Biographical Dictionary down to 1550, 2nd edn. (Gloucester, 1987). 

22 Printed in Early Yorkshire Charters , vol. 1 1, ed. C. T. Clay (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series, 
Extra Series, 9) (1963), pp. 100 101, no. 93. 

23 See most recently J. Burton, ‘The monastic revival in Yorkshire: Whitby and St Mary’s, York’, in Anglo- 
Norman Durham 1 ogy- 1 1 gj, ed. D. Rollason et al. (Woodbridge, 1994), pp. 41- 52. 



This is supported by the account of Archbishop Thurstan’s visitation of St Mary’s 
Abbey in October 1132. This was the famous occasion at which a brawl broke out at 
the packed chapter house and the archbishop was forced to retreat with some of the 
monks, who went on to become the founders of Fountains Abbey. For our purposes, 
what is of interest is the information contained in the account relating to the state of the 
abbey buildings in 1132. When Thurstan and his party were repulsed, he moved from 
the chapter house into the church through the cloister doorway, that is, evidently, the 
doorway from the cloister into the church at the east end of the south aisle. Once inside, 
they barred the door behind them and eventually retreated to the abbey gatehouse, 
where Thurstan had left his horses. 24 As this is situated near the west end of the church, 
the implication appears to be that in their retreat Thurstan and his party entered the 
church through the doorway from the east side of the cloister and left through the west 
end of the church — either through the main west doorway or the doorway near the 
west end of the north aisle. In either case, this would imply that they were able to move 
to and through the west end of the church, which would indicate that the west end was 
unencumbered with scaffolding or major building activity. Taken in conjunction with 
Fulk’s grant, it suggests that the church was essentially complete by about 1130 (in so 
far as any church on this scale ever was completed). A roughly forty-year building cam- 
paign is reasonable in respect of what is known about the length of building campaigns 
elsewhere. Thurstan’s account also indicates that the chapter house was in use, and in 
its normal position off the east side of the cloister. It is the earliest evidence we have for 
the chapter house of St Mary’s. 

One other date must be mentioned. 1137 appears in all the histories of York as the 
year in which the city was ravaged by a fire which affected the Minster, St Leonard’s 
Hospital, St Mary’s Abbey and 39 other churches. The source for this is a manuscript 
of the chronicle of John of Worcester which was written around the middle of the twelfth 
century, and is thus nearly contemporary. 25 A number of ornately carved Romanesque 
stones from the abbey, which are clearly of twelfth-century date rather than late eleventh, 
could date from around the middle of the century and could be considered to belong to 
post- 1 137 reconstruction work. No trace of any fire has been recorded in the various 
excavations which have taken place at the abbey, nor is there any other evidence of work 
on the church around the middle of the twelfth century. Reconstruction on the lines of 
the eleventh-century foundations need not have left any trace below ground. On the 
other hand, it is arguable that an error has crept into the record, and that an account 
of a major liturgical occasion in York such as a grand ceremony of consecration has 
accidentally passed into history as a conflagration. 26 However this may be, there is no 
concrete evidence, apart from the supposed fire of 1 137, to suggest that the first church 
of St Mary’s Abbey, begun in 1088 and completed about 1 130, did not continue to serve 
the purpose for which it was designed until work on its replacement began in the year 

24 - Epistola Turstini , printed in Memorials of the Abbey of St Mary of Fountains , ed. J. R. Walbran (Surtees Society, 
vol. XLII for 1862) (1863), pp. 1 1 29, see esp. pp. 24 26. 

25 - J. H. Harvey, ‘The fire of York in 1137’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, vol. XLI.3, (1965), pp. 365-67. 

26 I have discussed this fully elsewhere, (E. C. Norton, ‘The York fire of 1 1 37: conflagration or consecration?’, 

Northern History vol. 34 (1998), pp. 194-204). 

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Voiyi, / 999 



By S. A. Harrison and D. H. Heslop 


Excavation in 1985 and 1986 at the Augustinian Priory at Gisborough, Cleveland, (grid 
reference nz 617 161) examined the nave and west end of the church of St Mary, and 
was reported in a previous issue of this journal (Heslop 1995, 51-126). The plan, dating 
span and much interesting detail of three successive churches was recovered and the 
available architectural evidence assembled to suggest the above-ground appearance of 
each building. This report covers survey and architectural analysis undertaken between 
1986 and 1994, and completes the account of work funded by English Heritage as part 
of the renovation of the monument between those dates. 


In 1984, English Heritage (Properties in Care Section) requested the Cleveland County 
Archaeology Section to undertake excavation and survey in advance of remedial work 
at Gisborough Priory (Fig. 1). The East End was scaffolded and repaired in 1986—86 and 
the gatehouse and precinct wall repaired in 1993. Photogrammetric survey was under- 
taken in advance of repair by the English Heritage Photogrammetric Unit, and corrected 
by hand as part of the present project. The opportunity was taken to make the first 
large-scale survey of all the surviving medieval masonry in the Guardianship Area (the 
sixteenth-century dovecote is outside the designated area), and preliminary analysis 
undertaken by S. Harrison of the stone from the later (i.e. Post Romanesque) phases of 
the priory, which enable tentative reconstructions to be made of the thirteenth-century 
West End and the bay elevations of the presbytery. A geophysical survey, funded by 
Cleveland County Archaeology Unit, and undertaken by Andrew Waters, then of 
Bradford University, completes the work done in the inner precinct. No new documentary 
work was commissioned, but the authors have prefaced this account with a precis of 
secondary sources, for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the history of this early and 
important Augustinian House. The history of the church is detailed in the earlier account 
(Heslop 1995). 

In keeping with present practice, the town and district are called Guisborough, while 
the priory, hall and hall estate are termed Gisborough. 


The general history of the Priory is well known through the work of Graces (1808, 
421-26, Ord (1846, 164-201), Atkinson (1874, 26), Gilyard-Beer (1971) and Harrison 
and Dixon (1981, 11-93), while many of the important texts were compiled by Brown 
in the two volumes of the Gisborough Chartulary, (Brown ed. 1889 and Brown ed. 1891). 
To avoid re-covering the same ground, the historical background is given in the following 
digest; the Chartulary (G.C. I or II) is given as the primary reference where possible. 
For an account of what little is known of the later history of the muniments of the house, 
see Baker, 1988. 



Fig. i . Location map, showing sites mentioned in the text. 

1 1 19 1 124 Foundation of Priory, dedicated to St Mary, during the Papacy of Callistus 
II by Robert de Brus of Skelton, on the advice of Archbishop Thurstan (G.C. 
I, viii; V.C.H. II, 352). 

1 1 29 Date of confirmatory deed, with additional donations, later taken as original 

instrument of foundation, as by Walter de Heminbrugh (G.C. I, ix). 

1148 St Malachy spent his last days at the priory, curing a woman of cancer 

shortly before his death (Bernard’s Life of St Malachy, chapter xxxi). 

c. 1180 Henry de Pudsey founds a small monastery at Haswell, then Baxterwood, 
with canons from Gisborough but implacable opposition from the Prior of 
Durham forces Pudsey to transfer the benefaction to Finchale, send home 
the canons and re-stock with monks from Durham (Atkinson, 1874, II, 

c. 1180 Dispute between Adam (II) de Brus and the Convent over the advowson of 
churches at Kirklevington and Skelton. Adam lost (G.C. II, xi). 

c. 1200 Hospital of St Lawrence established at Upsall, before being incorporated 
with a hospital of St Leonard at Hutton Lowcross. The almoner was custos 
until independence in 1275, w h en a master was appointed. Inmates taken 
of both sexes; healthy and leprous (G.C. I, 190). 

1210 Gift of the advowson of Kirkleatham Church from William de Kilton sent 

for confirmation to King John (G.C. II, vii). 

1221 Maud, niece and heiress of William de Kilton, claims that grant of 

Kirkleatham Church was extracted on his death-bed (G.C. II, vii). 

1229 Prior admits validity of Maud’s claim (G.C. I, viii). 

1238 Prior Lawrence resigns chapel of Hartlepool to the Bishop of Durham (G.C. 

n, 358). 





I 280 

I 287 






l 3°9 

I 3°9 


*3 l 5 

l 3 l 9 




J 333 
1 343^44 

r 344 



H '3 


Henry III grants the convent a market and fair at Guisborough (Ord 1846, 


Peter de Brus IV dies; patronage of the priory passes to Walter de 
Fauconberg, by his wife Agnes, and Marmaduke de Thweng, by his wife 
Lucy (V.G.H. II 351). 

Goods, temporal and spiritual valued at 2000 marks (G.C. II, ix). 

Visitation of Archbishop Wickwane — much to correct; malingering in 
the farmery; scurrilous discourse in recreation time; muddled accounts. 
Judgement — no wandering from cloister; no individual gifts without 
superiors permission; conversi to be used where suitable; profiteering agents 
to be removed; punishments for named canon accused of quarrelling and 
cabals (G.C. II, x). 

Convent protests against the attempt of Canon Robert de Furmerey to 
transfer to a more austere order (G.C. II, 366). 

Church burns down (G.C. II, 353). 

Convent petitions the king for licence to impropriate the churches of 
Easington, Barmingham and Heslerton to relieve the poverty caused by the 
fire; not implemented (G.C. II, 354). 

Convent heavily in debt as result of Scottish wars (G.C. II, 355). 
Archbishop Corbridge of York gave indulgence to those visiting ‘ Capellam S. 
Hildae Virginis juxta Novam Aulam Prior atus de Giseburn construitur (G.C. II, 41 1). 
Visitation of Archbishop Greenfield — Two canons sent to Bridlington and 
Kirkham for penance (G.C. II, x). 

Archbishop Greenfield of York grants indulgences to all contributing to the 
rebuilding of the church ‘devoured by fire’ (G.C. II, 355). 

A canon of Bridlington sent to Gisborough for correction (G.C. II, x). 
Bishop Kellawe of Durham grants indulgences to all contributing to the 
rebuilding of the church (G.C. ii, 356). 

Commissions to be set up to correct excesses (G.C. II, xi). 

Convent refuses to admit an ex-Templar and is forced to under duress (G.C. 
H, XI). 

Archbishop Melton allows corrodies to be sold to alleviate debts (G.C. II, 

39 8 )- 

A canon convicted of usury (G.C. II, x). 

The Convent is unable to contribute the tenth voted by the Northern 
Convention (V.C.H. II, 352). 

The Convent is allowed to sell a corrody and part of the library. 

Prior is Plaintiff in plea against bailiffs of Gisburn, Bernaldeby (a grange) 
and Skelton, to give account of moneys (YAS, RS, xviii, 77). 

Permission to crenellate granted (V.C.H. II, 352). 

Priory has prior, 25 canons and two conversi (Sub. Rolls P.R.O. Bale 63, 

Will of William le Latimer, 4th Baron of Danby, orders completion of ‘vault- 
ing over the aisle in the north part of the church’, and leaves a further 500 
marks for a belfry (York Wills, Surtees Society, I, 1, 1 1 3). 

Fire in Guisborough consumes 49 houses: recorded among the obits in the 
Gisborough Liturgical Calendar (Wormald 1959, 5). 

Prior and Brother Richard Ayreton, canon, vs Mathew Rillesford of York, 
leech, for negligence of his professional duties in failing to cure an infirmity 
of Richard’s left leg (YAS, RS, xvii, 78). 


J 535 

J 53 6 

1 537 
r 539 

I 54° 

J 547 

c. 1600 


In Valor Ecclesiasticus Gisborough work 628/6/8 nett, with one student at 

Drs Leigh and Leyton visit in January. Prior James Cockerill is forced to 
resign in February, with sizable pension, replaced by Robert Pursglove, 
Gromwelfs nominee. 

In Bigod Rising, Sir John Bulmer, steward of the priory and Cockerill incite 
insurrection in Cleveland; both hanged at Tyburn. 

Pursglove signed deed of Surrender, on Christmas Eve, and is given pension 
of 166/ 13 (including Cockerilfs manor of Ugthorpe) for his part in persuad- 
ing other heads of religious houses in the area to accept the Dissolution 
(Harrison and Dixon 1981, 81). 

Henry VIII orders priory to be ‘demolished and carried away’ under lease 
to Thomas Leigh (Ord 1846, 575). Scheme by Pursglove to establish a college 
with dean, four prebendaries, six petty canons, four singing men, six choris- 
ters and master, steward, auditor and four poor men, came to nothing (G.C. 

I, 57); 

Buildings excluded from lease to Thomas Chaloner, diplomat and Clerk of 
the Privy Council, who married Leigh’s widow (Harrison and Dixon 1981, 

Remaining buildings included in Chaloner’s purchase of priory estate (Ord 

1846, 575)- 

Cottonian mss gives a brief description of the priory, having a steeple and 
two guesthouses, formerly housing gentlemen pensioners. 500 householders 
lived off the priory, and the Prior ‘kept a most pompous House’ but ‘now 
all those lodgings are gone, and the Countye as a wydowe remayneth mourn- 
full’ (Cottonian mss Folio V, 453-62; printed in Graves 1808, 421-22^ 


The first recorded excavation was in the summer of 1865, at the expense of Captain 
Thomas Chaloner. This involved the clearance of the East End to ground level. The 
only mention of this work was in an account of the annual Temperance Gala which was 
held in the Priory Gardens when, as the Middlesbrough Weekly News related: 

The fine remnant of the Old Priory was of course eagerly scanned, the excavations that have 
recently been made showing the form of the east end more clearly than it has been hitherto 

(Darnton and Dixon 1984, 4). 

In September 1867, extensive investigations extended the clearance to the West End, 
under the supervision of Downing Bruce, the London antiquarian. Two newspaper 
accounts of this campaign survive in the form of letters from correspondents, for the 
Building News , 18th October 1867, and the Middlesbrough News and Cleveland Advertiser , 
14th October 1867, both describing work in progress during the last two weeks of 
September. A starting date this late in the summer hints that part of this area was under 

The two accounts are broadly similar but by a different hand; the Building News 
correspondent concentrates on the historical background and the description of finds of 
antiquarian interest (heraldic tiles etc.) while the local newspaper concentrates on a 
description of the discovery of burials, but the salient points agree; they have been 
amalgamated in the following summary: 



A north-south trench was laid out across the nave 200 ft (61 m) from the surviving 
east end. At the southern end of this, the eastern processional doorway was 
uncovered, having Early English Purbeck marble pillars (still exposed although 
without pillars). The adjacent south aisle had an area of tiled floor. 

At 170 ft (52 m) from the east end, a portion of collapsed central tower had 
spilled into the choir, lying as it had fallen, on top of three monumental slabs, each 
6 ft long and 4 ft 5 ins wide. One had part of an inscription carved onto the north 
side, (... Sit. Pax Eterna Tecum Victor e Superna ...) in lettering dating to around ad 1480. 
This overlay a stone coffin five feet beneath the surface, containing a skeleton 
accompanied by a bronze buckle, sandals, fragments of fine cloth, assumed to be 
from vestments, and traces of a possible shroud. An adjoining grave contained a 
skeleton of 6 ft 4—8 ins length and two circular buckles of possible fourteenth- 
century date. The third slab bore the studs of a missing brass plate and overlay a 
further burial. All slabs and stone coffins were very badly broken; they were carefully 
re-placed and fixed in position with cement. 

Towards the north-east of the crossing, and in the choir, large quantities of screen 
work, monumental debris and fragments of tabernacle were recovered, some in 
‘Caen white stone’, much of it richly painted gold and red. There was an area of 
tile pavement in the choir, bounded on the west by steps down to the crossing. 

At the time of writing, work was progressing eastwards towards the High Altar 
and more burials awaited excavation. At the east end, there was no recognisable 
flooring; undisturbed remains were encountered three feet beneath the covering 

Three interesting sculptured finds were described; the remains of a figure in chain 
mail, a second in plate armour bearing the arms of Latimer on its breast, and an 
arch spandrel, in ‘Caen White Stone’ depicting an angel drawing a man out of fire 
with a chain. 

Large quantities of pottery, glass, architectural fragments, including gold painted 
roof bosses, and many coins were also found. 

The supervisor of this work, called Downing Bruce in the Building News , is almost 
certainly the William D. Bruce who contributed an engraved restoration drawing to 
Ord’s History and Antiquities of Cleveland published some 22 or 23 years earlier (Ord 1846, 
164). This view, taken from the east, gives the church a central spire clearly copied from 
Salisbury cathedral. The respected local historian Rev. J. C. Atkinson regretted that little 
could be deduced from this excavation, unlike contemporary work at Fountains (‘It is 
to be lamented that the work commenced under Mr Bruce has not been fully carried 
out under the direction of some competent architect and antiquarian’ footnote in his 
unfinished History of Cleveland , 1874, 13.) 

The first four bays of the nave were consolidated at a lower level than the rest of the 
church. The latest surviving floor, dating to the fourteenth century, was exposed but then 
grassed over. 

In 1887, fabric belonging to the priory was uncovered in the vicinity of the Grammar 
School, which lies to the north of the parish church. A letter from the headmaster, A. 
J. Cook to his mother states, ‘the grammar school I am building is on the site of part of 
the old priory and on digging our foundations we came on the place where the Abbey 
workmen dressed their stone and burnt their lime’ (extract of letter in EH file, Hilton 
Higginbottom, pers. comm.). 

Although local tradition tells of further excavation during the 1930s, no evidence of 
an organised campaign has come to light and none was known to Gilyard-Beer (Gilyard- 
Beer 1954). However, during stone repair work in 1932-33, a narrow-gauge railway was 



built to carry the wooden scaffolding from the gateway to the east wall, cutting across 
the north cloister walk, the south transept and the line of the south wall of the nave. The 
construction of this produced various finds including two grave slabs depicting knights- 
in-armour, which were re-buried (B. Wynn, Priory Custodian, pers. comm.). 

The Ministry of Works resumed clearance in 1947, exposing the west range, outer 
parlour and part of the north cloister wall (Fig. 2). This work was complete by 1954, 
when R. Gilyard-Beer, who supervised at least the later stages, described the results in 
his note-book (Gilyard-Beer 1954, 59). A description of the surviving remains appeared 
in Gilyard-Beer’s Gisborough Priory ffandbook (1971), but the results of this excavation 
have not been published elsewhere. 

Fig. 2. Gisborough Priory from the air, c. 1954, showing Gilyard-Beer’s excavations on the West range. 

Courtesy of Cambridge University, Collection of Air Photographs. 




The last major fabric repair programme to the East End was completed in the mid- 1930s. 
After a 50-year interval, a major programme of fabric maintenance, repointing and 
occasional stone replacement was preceded by elevation recording at 1 : 50 by photogram- 
metry (1985) by the English Heritage Photogrammetric Unit. The erection of 14 stages 
of scaffolding permitted close inspection to validate and correct the photogrammetric 
plots, work undertaken by the Cleveland County Archaeology Unit in 1986, when the 
north and south elevations were added, hand drawn from the scaffolding. Moulding 
profiles at 1:10 were taken during this phase of the project, and an accurate ground 
plan of the East End was produced. English Heritage supplemented the drawn survey 
with close-up photographic coverage to record sculptural detail and buttress faces not 
visible on the elevations (1986). 

A programme of recording the surviving in situ masonry elsewhere on the Guardianship 
site was started in 1986 and completed in 1987. This covered the west range (plan), the 
so-called kitchen range (plan and elevation), the extant precinct wall, i.e. between the 
gatehouse and the west end of the church (plan and elevation), and the gatehouse (plan). 
The elevation drawing of the gatehouse was completed in 1993-94 with photogrammetry 
and subsequent site checking for the main elevations and hand drawing of the internal 


Architectural analysis in 1994 continued work done in 1986 which covered the loose 
Romanesque and Early Gothic stonework in addition to the fragments discovered during 
excavation (Harrison 1995, 80). It examines the considerable quantities of stonework 
collected together in a stone pile presently located to the south-east of the priory church 
and describes in some detail the standing fabric of the church. Wherever possible, recon- 
structions have been produced to expand our understanding of the buildings and their 

All the material is without provenance but undoubtedly has its origin mainly in the 
excavation of the church undertaken in the nineteenth century and the western range in 
the early 1950s. A large proportion of the stonework is of thirteenth-century date and 
features profiles and decoration typical of that period. The monastery was largely burnt 
in a fire in 1 289 and subsequently rebuilt. Romanesque and Early Gothic material 
identified in the earlier report shows that substantial structures must have survived 
the fire and the thirteenth-century material provides another example of this survival. 
Following the dissolution of the priory in 1538, the buildings were stripped of all their 
fittings and roofs and the site was first leased and then soon sold. A substantial house 
was built in the south-west corner of the site, by the new owners, and this presumably 
accounted for a large proportion from the demolished priory buildings. Robbing of stone 
from the priory church was particularly extensive and, before the excavations undertaken 
by Admiral Chaloner in 1867, it seems unlikely that any details of its plan could be 

The scant remains of the church show that the thirteenth-century west front was 
retained after the fire. The surviving pier bases from the nave north arcade show that 
this area of the church must have been fairly deeply buried before the excavations and 
this area is the most likely source of much of the pre-fire thirteenth-century material. 


A survey of the Guardianship area and that part of the market garden to the west of the 
Guardianship boundary, up to the sixteenth-century dovecote (Fig. 3), was carried out 

Fig. 3 (above and facing). Gisborough Priory, geophysical survey. 



by Andrew Waters of Bradford University Department of Archaeological Sciences, using 
a Bradphys Mk IV earth resistance meter loaned from Bradford University. A twin probe 
configuration was used with a 0.5 m probe separation across 20 x20 m grids with readings 
taken at one metre intervals. 

The ground conditions were generally good. Ground cover was short grass in the 
Guardianship area and recently rotovated soil in the market garden around the dovecote. 
Difficulties were experienced because of the inclement weather and the presence of 
landscape features across the area, making the laying out of large grids impossible. 

A large range of resistance values were recorded in each area and the probes frequently 
encountered stone obstacles — masonry and rubble — during survey. The results were 
processed at Bradford University using an Epson HX-20 microcomputer with a geophysi- 
cal data FIELD COMPUTER SYSTEM. Due to time delays during survey (weather 
and access restrictions) complete normalising of grids could not be achieved, and the 
grids have been processed individually and the visible differences between grids have not 
been disguised. The resultant dot density plans (Fig. 3 — darkest areas have highest 
resistance), show that these factors have not seriously impaired the results of the survey. 
Observation on the survey have been integrated with the relevant section in the discussion. 



Included in the thirteenth-century material are three sections of plate tracery from a rose 
window of considerable dimensions. Two of the pieces are very similar, forming a basically 
triangular shaped panel which has the springing for half a trefoiled arch on each side. 
These are moulded on the exterior with single decorative flowers with long stems spaced 
at regular intervals (Fig. 4). The spandrel is filled with a circular paterae panel decorated 
with foliate motifs, below which is a small hole pierced through the stone. Internally 
there is a substantial rebate for glazing frames and the spandrel also features a decorative 
paterae panel (Fig. 5). Noticeably, all the paterae panels have different decorative motifs 
indicating that there was considerable variation throughout the window. Because the 
tracery formed part of a rose window, the arch apex joints have a radial angle generated 
from the centre of the window. This enables an accurate reconstruction of each ring of 
tracery to be made (Fig. 6) and in the first case it is possible to show that there was a 
ring of 12 trefoiled arches, 3.4 m in diameter. The second piece of tracery is of slightly 
different proportions and the radial joints are at a different angle which shows that it 
formed part of a ring of tracery with 36 trefoiled arches 8.15 m in diameter; the third 
piece of tracery is part of a spoke or shaft which supported the arches (Fig. 7). Though 
badly damaged, it clearly has a moulded capital and part of a semi-octagonal shaft which 
is rebated at the rear for glazing panels. The back of the shaft has a hole for retaining 
the glazing panels and the rebate curves behind the capital. 

The basic arrangement of the window must have had some form of large sexfoil at 
the centre which supported a ring of 1 2 spokes in the form of small shafts which had 
moulded capitals and bases. These supported a ring of 12 trefoiled arches. Around this 
ring there must have been a second with 24 arches which were probably trefoiled but 
may have been simply pointed. These in turn supported the outer ring of 36 trefoiled 
arches which were probably set in a heavily moulded rim. The details of this window 
are similar to other rose windows from the region and the nearest comparison is the 
window in the gable of the south transept at York Minster (Harrison and Barker 1987, 
145, Fig. 7). That window has a central sexfoil and two rings of 12 and 24 moulded 
trefoiled arches. The supporting shafts are very similar but with the additional decoration 



Fig. 4. Section of rose window from outer ring of 36 arches, exterior face. 

Fig. 5. Rose window, interior view of Fig. 4, showing decorative paterae in spandrel and the plain 

outlines of the deep glazing rebates. 



of stiff leaf instead of simply moulded capitals. The details of the arches are alike and 
use large springers with a similar arrangement of joints. Gisborough has prominent 
glazing rebates but in comparison those at York are relatively shallow. York also provides 
another example where the internal face is decorated, though in this instance with a 
simple arrangement of plain sunk circles (op. cit. 146, Fig. 8). 

Contrary to popular belief, rose windows were very common throughout the twelfth 
and thirteenth centuries in the North of England, particularly in Yorkshire, but destruction 
at the Dissolution of the monasteries and earlier modernisation schemes have meant a 
low survival rate. In recent years tracery has been recognised and reconstructed from 

0 1 2 

Fig. 6. Reconstruction of the great rose window. 



two large windows at Fountains Abbey (op. cit. 148, Goppack 1993, 41, Fig. 25 and p. 58, 
Fig. 43) the western rose at Byland Abbey (Harrison and Barker 1987), the eastern rose 
at Kirkstall (Harrison, 1995) and parts of two examples from Jervaulx Abbey, with the 
possibility of parts of another two from Roche Abbey and one from Rievaulx Abbey. In 
addition, it seems likely that Beverley Minster originally had an eastern rose window 
and, in an Augustinian context, certain that Kirkham Priory formerly possessed a large 
rose in the upper part of its lost eastern facade (Harrison and Barker 1987, 146-49, 
Goppack et al. 1995, 72-75). Outside the Yorkshire region a large rose window has been 
reconstructed at Elgin Cathedral (Fawcett 1997, 34—36) and the stonework collection at 
Norton Priory (Cheshire) also includes part of a rose window. No doubt there were 
originally many others which have been completely lost. Virtually all the examples men- 
tioned above had rings of 12 or 24 arches and usually, apart from glazing rebates, are 
entirely plain on the interior. The Gisborough window is unusual in several respects; 
firstly, the elaborate decoration of the exterior with paterae in the spandrels and foliate 
decoration along the trefoil arches. Secondly, there is the internal spandrel decoration 
with equally elaborate paterae panels to the exterior. Thirdly, the additional outer ring 
of 36 arches and the great size this gives the window. It seems clear that the Gisborough 
canons intended to have the most heavily decorated and impressive rose window in the 
North, if not in the whole of England and its loss is all the more to be regretted. 


Such an impressive window, which by its internal rim must have been nearly nine metres 
in diameter, can only have occupied one of the major facades of the church. It seems 
unlikely that such a window would have occupied either of the transept terminal walls 
and since the eastern facade was rebuilt in the late thirteenth century, it seems most 
likely that the window formed the principal feature of the western facade. Indeed it 

Fig. 7. Damaged column or spoke support from the rose window showing the rebates for glazing. 



appears that only the nave would have been wide enough to accommodate its large 
diameter. This would accord with the known history of the building following the fire of 
1289 and account for the survival of the tracery fragments. 

The west front of the church has been reduced to a low level but its plan remains 
largely intact (Fig. 8), together with much of its base plinth. These show that the front 
had a pair of large western towers which projected beyond the nave aisles at the sides. 
It has a steeply sloping deep base plinth with angle shafts with fillets worked up the side 
angles of the wide pilaster buttresses, which were chamfered across the corners. The wide 
western doorway was subdivided in two and the base padstone for the dividing pier still 
survives. This shows that the outer plane of the doorways were placed in line with the 
face of the flanking buttresses and it is notable that the padstone is set into what appears 
to be the lowest section of a flight of steps, spanning between the buttresses. Internally, 
the large north and south piers of the first bay of the nave have survived relatively intact. 
Because these carried the tower they are very large and of quatrefoil plan (Figs. 8 and 
9). The piers have a square core around which are arranged each semi-circular base 
which makes up the overall quatrefoil base plan. The sub-base has a simple drum base 
with a torus moulding along its upper edge and supports individual moulded bases to 
the shafts of the pier. The northern base retains substantial sections of the moulded bases 
but the southern pier has only the lower sub-base, though loose moulded base sections 
amongst the stonework collection almost certainly belong to this pier. The piers formed 
a respond for the nave arcade and for the arch into the tower basement. There was a 
respond for a large arch spanning across the nave which marked off the western towers 
from the rest of the nave and on the aisle side this is matched by an aisle respond. Against 
the aisle wall there was a matching semi-circular respond though these have been largely 
robbed away. Because of the deep projection of these bases and the relatively narrow 
nave aisles, the gap between the pier responds is very small and the resulting arch, 
spanning the aisle, must have looked extremely unusual and attenuated. 

The piers are composed of large sh afts with prominent fillets with a shaft facing towards 
each cardinal point and another diagonally in the angles between. The fillets are repeated 
in an exaggerated manner on the base neckings and partly into the base moulding below 
but not on the front of the large lower base roll. The base mouldings are waterholding 
and though large-scale are typical of the first half of the thirteenth century (Fig. 10). 
Despite the treatment of each face of the pier as a separate respond the side shafts are 
not adapted to specially fit against the pier core. Whilst responds are often specially 
designed, in this case it suggests that the respond plan may have been adapted from the 
free-standing piers used in the thirteenth-century nave arcade. Projection of the respond 
pier plan to full circle shows what such a pier may have looked like (Fig. 11). The 
individual pier shafts are separated by rounded hollows which are wider than the gap 
between each of the pier shafts. This must have given a curious appearance to each pier, 
emphasising the space between each shaft with a deeper line of shadow, and is an unusual 
feature which was also used on the crossing piers at Whitby Abbey. In the south-east 
corner of the south tower is the lower jamb of an entrance into a stair turret for access 
to the upper parts of the tower and the lowest section of the newel with a moulded base 
still survives. In the internal corners of the tower are the remains of large corner shafts. 

In the first report, (Flarrison 1995, Fig. 27) a trefoil-headed niche with a gabled canopy 
was illustrated and this was part of a series forming a wall arcade, of which several pieces 
survive. The gable above the niche projects from a sloping glacis which shows signs of 
weathering indicating the arcade was positioned outside the building, presumably some- 
where on the west front such as between the tower buttresses. Architectural drawings 
inscribed on the pavement adjoining the tower piers appear to show the layout for one 



of these niches and also for the central division between a pair of lancet windows [op. cit. 
Fig. 8). This has the outline of a cluster of five shafts, the central and outer of detached 
design whilst the intermediate pair have a roll moulding with a prominent fillet. At each 
side is the outline of a chamfered window jamb with a glazing rebate. No complete piece 
of stonework of this design has survived but one piece of fragmentary form has been 
recognised amongst the stone collection. The drawing must have served to facilitate the 
production of templates for stone cutting and may represent a plan for a base, annulet 
ring clusters, or capital. The location of these drawings indicates that they relate to the 
construction of the west front and if this can be accepted as correct it suggests that the 
design of the front incorporated paired or groups of lancet windows which were separated 
by clusters of five shafts. 

In the northern region large twin-towered facades were not that common, there being 
only Durham and Selby from the Romanesque period and Old Malton Priory surviving 
from the late twelfth century. Like rose windows, though, such facades may have once 
been more common and, whilst such sites as Whitby and St Mary’s York await excavation, 
York Minster certainly appears to have had a twin-towered facade added to its 
Romanesque nave, late in the twelfth century (PIope-Taylor 1971, 20-21, Plate 6; Gee 
1977, 125-26). Though this was destroyed when the present west front was built, a series 
of statues from the earlier building still survive (Norton and Oosterwijk 1990). Similar, 
but more fragmentary statues by the same atelier survive at Gisborough and these may 
have occupied the trefoil-headed niches on the west front (Oosterwijk 1993, 41—44). The 
nearest contemporary twin-towered facade to that at Gisborough is the west front of 
Ripon Cathedral (Hallet 1909, 40-44; Forster et al. 1993, 121, Plate 1). The Ripon west 
front, like that at York, was added to an existing aisleless nave so that the towers projected 
completely beyond the nave and effectively disguised what was going on behind. At 
Gisborough the west front is also wider than the nave but this is more likely to reflect 
the desire to have towers which were square internally. Had the towers followed the plan 
of the aisles, they would have been distinctly rectangular in plan. 

The Ripon front has similar, but shallower, buttresses which rise the full height of the 
towers. There are three doorways grouped together which project forward from the main 
line of the west front and are deeply moulded with gables framing each arch. These 
project from a large sloping glacis in a similar manner to the trefoiled niches from 
Gisborough. The lancet windows are framed by groups of shafts separated by dogtooth 
moulding in a very similar manner to that indicated by the Gisborough window setting 
out. The lowest stage of the towers has a row of trefoiled blind arcading and three stages 
each with a single lancet window flanked by lower blind arches. In the central part of 
the facade there are two tiers of five lancets, the upper graduated towards the gable 
which has a third tier of three narrow lancet lights. Gisborough must have been very 
similar but with the rose window as the principal feature of the front. From the plan of 
the front it is possible to project a tentative outline reconstruction of the design. The 
surviving east gable gives an indication of the height of the building and though it may 
have differed slightly from the nave, it would be unusual to have varied by a great 
amount. The rose window would have been placed high up in the facade and internally 
it would have occupied the whole width of the nave. Just how its position was related to 
the nave ceiling cannot be established but other arrangements in the region such as 
Byland, York and possibly Kirkham placed the rose window very high in combination 
with a timber barrel ceiling (Harrison and Barker 1987). 

Externally the window setting would almost certainly have been enhanced by large 
paterae panels set around the window rim [op. cit.) and several examples of such decorative 
panels have survived in the stone collection. 

Fig. 8. Tentative schematic 
reconstruction of the west 





The buttresses are wide and were embellished by angle shafts, similar to the east front 
at Kirkham Priory (Coppack 1990, 51, Fig. 58). The surviving bases show that these were 
detached and must have been banded at regular intervals with annulet rings or moulded 
collars. Presumably, like other surviving examples, they extended to the top of each 
tower. Between the buttresses there were additional shafts which considerably reduced 
the space available for windows. These shafts may also have risen the full height of the 
towers but at Selby Abbey similar shafts are employed to support arches in the upper 
stages. These additional shafts are treated differently on each tower and if the gabled 
trefoiled niches were positioned between them there would be space for four niches on 
the south tower but only three on the north tower. The relatively narrow space available 
for windows indicates that these would have probably been single lancets perhaps, like 
those at Ripon, flanked by lower blind lancet arches. Certainly it seems that the double 
window jamb, drawn on the paving, cannot have been employed on either tower because 
it is too wide. It seems likely that it represents the design for the windows positioned 
below the rose window and using the drawing as a guide it is possible to accommodate 
three lancets in this position. 

How the upper parts of the tower were finished is problematical and simple sloping 
buttresses have been indicated in the drawing but these could equally have carried up 
as pinnacles or had gabled cappings. The towers may have been roofed with shallow 
leads but, following the pattern of Ripon and other examples, tall lead spires have been 
indicated to show the possible outline. The setting of the doorway in line with the face 



Fig. io. Mouldings of thirteenth-century 
western tower piers and fifteenth-century nave 
pier bases (Scale, i : 8). 

Fig. 1 1 . Nave pier plan: left conjectural thirteenth-century pier, right fifteenth century pier. (Scale, i : 40). 

of the flanking buttresses is unusual and indicates that the doorway was deeply recessed. 
The paired arches must have spanned between the buttresses and because of the depth 
of the doorways have been surmounted by gables set into a sloping glacis. This must 
have appeared very similar to the western doorways at Ripon (Fiallet 1909, 17, 39) and 
several stones from a gable decorated with laurel-leaf foliage have survived in the dump 
(Fig. 12). The pitch of this gable was 52 degrees and this is a common roof pitch used 
during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, occurring for instance on the roofs at Ripon. 
The small scale of the leaf decoration makes it unlikely that the Gisborough example 
originated from the high roofs and the gables over the entrance doorways seem to be 
the most likely source. Unfortunately, all the masonry east of the first step in front of the 
doorways has been robbed away and excavation yielded no further information concern- 
ing the actual arrangement of the doorways. It seems that the paired arches between the 
buttresses formed a deep porch in front of the actual doorways. These may have simply 
followed the outline of the porch arches and formed a pair of deeply moulded doorways 
or it may be that there was a single central entrance doorway forming a syncopated 



arrangement with the paired arches of the porch. Whilst the latter may seem unusual, 
an earlier instance of syncopated arcading is known from the site (Harrison 1995, Fig. 27). 

Considerable quantities of the thirteenth-century mouldings survive amongst the loose 
stonework and though it has not proved possible to examine all the material in great 
detail, some of the moulding profiles have been recorded to show the variety present 
(Fig. 13). These include many pieces which feature dogtooth and nailhead ornament, 
including a vault springer. Some of the arches appear to have formed part of a richly 
moulded wall arcade with dogtooth ornament and remains of this include handed spring- 
ers, foiled springers, voussoirs with a variety of radii and several keystones. Despite the 
wealth of material, it is not obvious how they fitted together; certainly they cannot have 
formed a simple trefoiled arcade and the variety of radii indicate that there was a pro- 
fusion of small arches mixed with some quite large ones. Some of the angled joints suggest 
that cinquefoil arches formed one of the principal features of the arcading. One of the 
voussoirs has a compound arc of curvature struck from two centres, and this may explain 
why it is not a simple task to reconstruct the appearance of the arcading. The double 
curve brings to mind the rather curious blind arches which flank the presbytery aisle 
windows at Fountains (Hope 1900, Fig. 6) and which also appear in the presbytery aisles 
at Carlisle Cathedral; perhaps something similar was used in the western towers at 
Gisborough. Certainly the contemporary twin-towered front at Arbroath Abbey featured 
a large rose window and the base of each tower has an external arcade of syncopated 
arches (Mackie and Cruden 1985, 15—16). The Gisborough arcading has a matching 
hoodmould with laurel leaf decoration and the two surviving label stops are carved with 
the head of a king and two intertwined biting dragons. The wealth of this material 
suggests that if it did originate in the towers it would most likely have formed part of 
internal decorative arcades, rather similar to those in the lower stages of the towers 
at Ripon. 

Though badly damaged, the stubs of the nailhead of some of the voussoirs show that 
it was very attenuated (Fig. 13), a feature noted on some of the fragments found during 
the excavation of the nave and illustrated in the first report (Harrison 1995, Fig. 14, 6). 
The example of laurel leaf noted above can be supplemented by sections of stringcourse 
and a fragment of door jamb which has it worked up the angle. This motif forms yet 
another link with York Minster where it is used extensively in the transepts. More exotic 
are a pair of large bases which have drapery swags worked on them (Fig. 14), a rare type 
of decoration which also occurs, together with laurel leaves on the jambs, in an 
Augustinian context on the nave north porch doorway at Bridlington Priory. At 
Gisborough they appear to have occupied a corner situation but may have been combined 
with others in some form of door jamb assemblage. 

4 ^ 

Fig. 12. Gable with frieze of small laurel leaf 
decoration (Scale, 1:10). 



Fig. 13. Profiles of thirteenth-century date showing nailhead and dogtooth ornament (Scale, 1:10). 

Fig. 14. Bases for round shafts decorated with stylised drapery swags (Scale, 1:10). 


In the north arcade of the nave the three westernmost pier bases survive and they show 
a design of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century (Fig. 11). This has a single 
large shaft on the east and west face with a large cluster of three shafts towards the aisle 
and nave. Between the two, but separately positioned is another shaft. The base profiles 
are tall and typical of the perpendicular style (Fig. 10). Amongst the stone collection are 
several pieces of shaft which must derive from this series of piers, including one unusual 
section which has part of a pier worked on one face and towards the pier core an intricate 
moulding of a window jamb, similar to those of the presbytery aisle windows. On each 
of the bed faces is a prominent masons’ mark. The apparent reuse of this stone may 
indicate that material, in the style of the presbytery, was prepared but never used; prob- 
ably due to an interruption in the progress of the work. The source of this pier type is 
not difficult to trace, for it was first used in the rebuilding of the nave at York Minster 
from 1290 and retained in use in the later fourteenth-century rebuilding of the Minster 



presbytery (Harvey 1977). It was, therefore, still a current design when the nave at 
Gisborough was being rebuilt. At York the front shafts are carried up the elevation to 
form the supports for the high vault and we can assume that the Gisborough piers were 
similarly treated, indeed the adoption of this design all but proves the presence of some 
form of high vault in the nave. Though all trace of the arcades have now vanished, 
several voussoirs deriving from them survive in the stone collection and these can be 
used to give some indication of the profile of the arcades (Fig. 15). The apparent York 
influence may mean that the nave bay design, like that in the choir, followed the design 
of the York presbytery. Further research amongst the loose stonework might reveal much 
in this respect. Certainly there are fragments of window tracery which must derive from 
the nave windows. Whilst the mullions are simpler in profile than those from the presby- 
tery (Fig. 1 6), the other surviving pieces show that the windows had transoms and these 
show the size of the lights and that the heads were cusped. Whilst the two surviving 
transoms employ the same profile, one is prominently embattled and the other plain. 

Other details include parts of wall arcading which probably derive from the nave aisles. 
These have springers for blind tracery and are simpler than those employed in the 
presbytery. Parts of two different embattled parapets survive and, whilst one appears to 
have employed simple crenellations, the other was a splendid example with pierced 
cusped tracery openings and may have formed the clerestory parapet to the nave or 
perhaps a central tower (Fig. 17). It is strikingly similar to the parapets employed on York 

THE EAST FRONT (Figs. 20-23) 

The east front of the church forms the most intact part of the monastery and is a most 
remarkable survival considering the almost total demolition of the rest of the buildings 
(Fig. 18). By 1709 the only monastic building which remained intact appears to have 

Fig. 15. Profiles of four large arch soffit voussoirs from the main arcades of the church (Scale, 1:10). 



Fig. 1 6. Profiles of church window mullions: 
(a) rebuilt presbytery; (b) probably from the 
fifteenth-century nave (Scale, i : io). 

been the gatehouse, whilst the church had largely assumed its present appearance with 
the east front standing as an ornament within the park adjoining the formal gardens of 
the mansion built by the Chaloner family (Coppack 1993). The hre of 1289 damaged 
the buildings so badly that substantial rebuilding had to be undertaken (Brown II, 
353-57). The east front of the church shows that this was soon in hand. Externally it 
has large deeply projecting buttress which have triangular cappings. The south-east corner 
has an additional minor buttress in the diagonals facing south-east and south-west. Above 
the tall plinth and plain base stage there is a statue niche with a gabled head which is 
decorated with foliate crockets. The major corner buttresses have geometrical panelled 
tracery supported by engaged moulded shafts with foliate capitals (Fig. 19). The tracery 
fills the gable at the top of each buttress and it carried around the sides in the form of 
trefoiled panels. Each of the large buttresses which flank the east window have a matching 
statue niche but the upper parts, which step back at intervals with sloping offsets, are 
plain masonry. The buttresses at the north-east corner are similar in form to those at 
the south-east but lack the decorative niches and tracery panelling. This gives some 
indication of the sequence of construction. 

The east end of each aisle has a window with geometrical tracery, formerly of three 
lights. The tracery has been knocked out but the stubs in the window head show that it 
had a trefoil in the head with a pair of quatrefoils below. The trefoil was set in a spherical 
triangular frame, whilst the quatrefoils were in spherical squares which were set diagon- 
ally. Below the window head were three trefoiled cusped lights which had tall bases for 
the mullions worked on the window sills. The window jambs are deeply moulded and 
the head is framed by a prominent hoodmould. Several pieces of tracery from these or 
the flanking aisle windows have been identified amongst the stonework collection, and 
form the intersection between the quatrefoil and trefoil lights. Heavily moulded, they 
have very prominent sharply pointed cusps which have unpierced spandrels. The window 
in the south aisle is badly distorted due to settlement towards the south-east respond of 
the main arcade and this must have given the whole a rather peculiar appearance 
(Fig. 23). Below the windows was a wall arcade which is now very fragmentary and badly 
worn away, though its form is known from nineteenth-century drawings when it survived 
in a better state of preservation (Sharpe 1848). It had a continuous row of arches which 
were subdivided and had quatrefoils in the heads. Parts of this arcading, which also 
decorated the aisle walls, survive in the stone dump. 

The whole design of the front is dominated by the great east window, now an enormous 
void where its tracery and windowsill have been knocked out, probably in order to create 
a vista. The jambs are heavily moulded and have capitals which feature naturalistic 





Fig. 1 8. The east wall of the presbytery. 

foliage of oak leaves with acorns. Internally there is a band of foliage which is carried 
up each jamb and throughout the window head which is steeply pointed with the arcs 
of curvature struck from the opposite springing point. Substantial stubs of tracery survive 
though unfortunately parts of these are decaying quite rapidly. The head is filled with 
the upper part of a large circle, subdivided internally with a series of pointed trefoils 
which alternated around the circle. The trefoils were subdivided by iron cross bars set 
in lead packings and substantial traces of these survive. Though little loose tracery from 
this window appears to have survived, two pieces from the circle have been identified 
and these form part of the trefoil subdivisions. The geometry of these surviving stubs and 
the loose pieces show that the trefoils were less attenuated in form than had previously 
been supposed. The tracery below the upper circle consists of the springers for a pair of 
large arches, the curves of which are struck from a single central point, and which 
subdivided the window. These retain on the soffit the outline for the tracery subdivision 
of the lower window lights. These have been carefully measured and it is possible to 
project their full form and determine the spacing of the mullions with some certainty. 
The window tracery was first reconstructed by Edmund Sharpe in the 1840s, and he 
interpreted the tracery layout as having seven lights with two main groups of three lights 
under an enclosing arch with a single light in the centre (Sharpe 1948). The enclosing 
arches were supported by a pair of supermullions and the whole employed a graduated 
tracery system similar to that employed in the east window at Ripon Cathedral (Hallet 
1909, 60—63). Sharpe’s drawing shows each three-light arrangement with three trefoils 
in the head supported by a row of trefoil-headed lights. Examination of the surviving 



Fig. 19. The south-east buttress of the 
east front. 

tracery stubs and their geometry shows that this arrangement is incorrect and that instead 
of being struck as single arcs the foils have a double arrangement of arc centres and are 
in fact the remains of quatrefoils whose shapes have been subtly altered by clever manipu- 
lation of their geometry. The lower range of lights had trefoil heads, like those shown by 
Sharpe, and which also appear on the blind panelling of the south-east corner buttress 
(Fig. 19). The window was substantially reinforced by iron bars and the position of these 
has been indicated on the reconstruction drawing. Set in lead packings the stubs of the 
ironwork shows that it was up to 5 cm deep and 2 cm thick and besides reinforcing the 
fabric also served as support for the glazing panels. 

In the gable above the main window is a much smaller window with more simply 
moulded tracery of five lights with a cusped circle in the head. The lowest cusp of the 
encircled quatrefoil has the base for a small statue, thought to have been of the Virgin. 
The gable above has a lower pitch in contrast to the steeply pitched roofs used in the 
earlier twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Each corner of the front has the remains of a 
stair turret for access to the upper parts of the building. The stairs have octagonal 
caphouses with tall conical spires which are decorated on the angles by prominent 
moulded foliate crockets, most of which have lost the prominent projecting foliate ter- 
minal. The stairs give access to a walkway across the interior of the front at the base of 
the windows and a doorway giving access to the parapet walkway above the aisle roofs. 
The parapet had a sloping capping with a roll moulding along the top edge, the outline 



of which survives at the side of the doorway. The aisle roofs were provided with stone 
hoodmoulds but when they came to be built the lead was flashed in above the sloping 
hoodmould instead of below it showing that the roofs were higher than originally 
intended. From the top of each turret there is also a passage in the thickness of the wall, 
which has a small twin-light window to light the passage and also the space between the 
aisle vaults and the aisle roof. At the end of the passage there is a doorway into the aisle 
roofspace and entrance to a second stair turret which gave access to passageways in the 
triforium and clerestories of the presbytery and higher still to the main roof parapet 
walkway. At this level there was also a passageway, connecting the angle turrets, through 
the gable base. The top of these upper turrets are treated in a similar manner to those 
below but the spires are much less steeply pitched. Above the clerestory there is a foliate 
cornice which supported the parapet of the high roof. This frieze consists of trilobed stiff 
leaves, and at regular intervals, boldly projecting crockets. This type of eaves cornice 
with a band of leaves was also employed, in a contemporary context at York Minster on 
the chapter house, vestibule and nave (Coldstream 1980, 16-20) and at St Mary’s Abbey, 
where a stub of the nave north aisle foliate parapet cornice survives against the west wall 
of the north transept. It may originally have been first used in the earlier thirteenth- 
century York Minster transepts. 


The lower part of each stair has been removed but on the north side sufficient remains 
to show that the aisle wall had panelled wall arcading below the windows which was 
pierced with a doorway giving access to the stair. There was a short passage within the 
thickness of the aisle wall and part of its ceiling in the form of a miniature quadripartite 
ribbed vault has survived. The aisle wall arcading was also carried around below the east 
window but unfortunately it has been largely robbed away, leaving only stubs which are 
very worn and the exposed core of the wall which has a lot of reused twelfth-century 
mouldings. The surviving pieces of the arcade have cusped tracery arches set in a moulded 
frame supported by shafts with bases and foliate capitals. 

Only the stubs of the main arcades survive against the east wall. The responds have 
prominent tiered bases supporting five shafts with fillets and short naturalistic foliate 
capitals. Towards the aisle an additional smaller shaft, standing on an extension of the 
main respond base, carries the eastern wall rib of the aisle vault. In the corners of the 
aisles similar shafts are provided but are discontinued at the level of the window bases, 
showing an alteration in the design. The aisle vault wall rib is acutely pointed and at the 
apex of the arch is a foliate boss. Amongst the stonework collection are two complete 
vault bosses which probably originated in the aisle vaults. These are from the intersection 
of the diagonal ribs and are divided into quadrants and have large seaweed style foliage 
decoration (Fig. 24). The surviving wall rib boss shows that the aisle vaults featured ridge 
ribs and the loose vault bosses show outlines for the abutment of these ribs. Also amongst 
the stone dump is a foliate boss from the intersection of the transverse ribs which also 
shows abutment for ridge ribs (Fig. 25). 

The jambs of the aisle side windows are similar to those in the east wall but lack the 
band of foliate decoration up the jambs and around the window head. The windows 
were flanked, in the south aisle, by small narrow niches with statue brackets corbelled 
from the wall and gabled canopies with cusping and foliate finials. These are absent on 
the north aisle wall. The remains of the main arcades (Fig. 26) show an arrangement of 
complex arch mouldings with a soffit and two orders towards the main vessel and aisles. 
The base of the triforium is marked by a moulded stringcourse. The triforium was framed 
as a single unit with the clerestory within an enclosing arch comprising two filleted rolls. 

Fig. 20. East End: 1985 survey, interior elevation. 



Fig. 21. East End: 1985 survey, exterior elevation. 


2.5 5.0 


Fig. 22. East End: 1985 survey, north and south elevation. 

Fig. 23. East End: Reconstruction drawing. 



The triforium jamb has an additional order of two moulded rolls which terminate in a 
sloping angled face. This may indicate that it was originally intended to carry the mould- 
ing up to form part of an inner screen of tracery but this was abandoned during construc- 
tion. Instead it seems likely that it was mitred and returned as a horizontal stringcourse 
along the base of the clerestory. The triforium comprised a series of open trefoil-headed 
arches framed by a stringcourse with a series of blind quatrefoils framed by a second 
stringcourse above. 

The clerestory was very wide and high with small foliate capitals at the springing of 
the internal and external arch heads. The windows retain their moulded jambs but, 
unlike the east window, have lost all their tracery. The windows were made as large as 
possible by positioning the sills directly on top of the triforium and springing the window 
arches above the springing for the high vault. This was achieved by setting the window 
arches concentric with the wall rib of the high vault and making them segmental in form. 
Whilst this enabled the windows to be made as large as possible it meant that there was 
an awkward angle at the springing point of the windows. The high vault springs from a 
shaft in the corner angle with the east wall and has prominent wall ribs. Some minor 
problems with setting out were apparently experienced and whilst the north arcade makes 
a close junction with the east wall, on the south there is a gap with plain masonry between 
the vault wall shaft and east window, with the consequence that the vault springer is 
spaced to the east and does not sit above the shaft intended for its support. This obvious 
error seems to give some indication of the progress of the works and many other less 
obvious minor errors and adjustments give clues to the sequence of building. Above the 
springers for the aisle vaults there are parts of the stone webs of the vaults but above the 
high vault there is no sign of any stone webbing. This together with the immense size of 
the clerestory windows indicates that no masonry vault was ever constructed and that a 
timber vault covered the presbytery instead. That this was the case is reinforced by the 
absence of doorways from the stair turrets into the vault pockets at the east end, which 
would almost certainly have been provided with a masonry high vault. 

The sole discussion document for the design of the arcade is Sharpe’s reconstruction 
drawing. This, in common with many of Sharpe’s drawings, suffers from a lack of correct 
detail due to making site notes and drawing the reconstruction without checking the end 
product against the surviving fabric. Sharpe shows a relatively dumpy main arch but the 
proportions of the remains suggest that they were more acutely pointed. The triforium 
he shows has a row of six trefoiled arches set in a frame with pointed quatrefoils above. 
The surviving stubs of these features confirm that there was in fact two parallel rows of 
open trefoil arches with a wall passage between them. Above there was a band of quatre- 
foils, in a frame, but these had rounded not pointed lobes. Amongst the loose stonework 
there are two springers which formed part of the triforium trefoiled arch arcade. These 
show that each springer was subdivided by a substantial shaft cluster which matches with 
that at the edge of the bay (Fig. 27). This has important implications for Sharpe’s recon- 
struction because it casts doubt on his arrangement of the trefoiled arches. From the 
photogrammetric drawings which show the springing of the arcading, the loose springers 
and the partially surviving blind quatrefoils it is possible to show that there must have 
been only four, not six trefoiled arches per bay. This is confirmed by the curved trajectory 
of the clerestory window head which can be projected to determine the centre of the bay 
and the outline of the windows. The bay design as reconstructed (Fig. 28) looks consider- 
ably different to Sharpe’s illustration and the presence of the hitherto unsuspected shafts 
between each trefoiled arch in the triforium has fundamental significance concerning the 
evolution of bay design. It seems clear that these shafts form part of a scheme in which 
it was intended that the tracery of the clerestory windows would be set in line with the 



Fig. 24. Vault boss decorated with seaweed foliage, probably from the diagonal ribs of the presbytery 

aisle vaults. 

internal wallface and the mullions of the clerestory windows were to be carried down 
into the triforium. This scheme was never carried to fruition and instead the window 
tracery was reset in alignment with the outer wallface of the clerestory. 

Though it is generally accepted that the Gisborough design falls within the regional 
late thirteenth and early fourteenth-century developments of the geometrical style of 
architecture, no detailed analysis of its sources has been attempted. Pevsner (1966, 178) 
saw a link with the nave of York Minster and raised the questions of mullions linking the 
clerestory and triforium, and Coldstream (1980, 92 and 96-99) has also drawn some 
parallels with York. Both these commentators, in particular Coldstream’s astute and 
valuable observations, were moving in the right direction but suffered from the lack of 
accurate reconstructions. Indeed until now the only published reconstructions were those 
made by Sharpe, or based on his drawings, which seem to have been accepted as accurate. 
The acceptance of Sharpe’s drawings, in many respects, must have misled many people 
since they were published in 1848. 

The new reconstructions help to trace the source of the design with more confidence 
and to place it more securely within the regional context. The tracery of the great east 
window seems to have been inspired by that of the aisle windows in the nave of York 
Minster. The three-light subsections have an identical pattern with three quatrefoils set 
above three trefoil-headed lights. The trefoiling of the latter with large round heads is 
particularly close to York. The same trefoil patterns also appear on the sides of the south- 
east buttresses and the pattern on the gabled face also appears on the buttresses of the 
western towers at York Minster (Coldstream 1972, 20, Plate X). Connections can also be 
made with the tracery of the York chapter house vestibule which employs windows with 



Fig. 25. Vault boss decorated with seaweed foliage, probably from the transverse ribs of the presbytery 

aisle vaults. 

large circular tracery heads which have alternating pointed and round trefoils, the former 
very similar to the trefoils in the head of the Gisborough east window and overall an 
almost identical pattern to the east window at Ripon Cathedral (op. cit. 21). Coldstream 
has convincingly explored the links between the chapter house, its vestibule and the 
Minster nave and shown they are probably by the same designer. This is borne out by 
the setting of the vestibule and chapter house window tracery towards the internal plane 
of the walls) creating deeply recessed external arches which anticipate or show knowledge 
of the similar external arches of the nave clerestory (op. cit. Plates VIII and X). 

The employment of the gabled niches flanking the windows of the south aisle internally 
can also be paralleled at York. In the main bay the arches, though more acutely pointed 
than indicated by Sharpe, were blunter than those at York and possibly reflect the lost 
proportions of the earlier late twelfth-century arcade (see below). Like the Gisborough 
triforium, that at York has a series of trefoil-headed arches, arranged in two parallel rows 
with a wall passage between. York has gablets above each arch and these are surmounted 
by a band of small quatrefoils (Harvey 1977). At York the tracery of the clerestory is set 
level with the inner plane of the wall and its mullions are carried down into the triforium, 
exactly as was intended at Gisborough but discontinued in the final scheme. Unlike 
Gisborough, the York clerestory windows are not set concentric with the vault wall ribs. 
The York nave employs a timber vault, a copy of the original lost in the fire of 1840. 
This is of a lierne pattern due to a long delay in completing the minster nave and was 
originally intended to be of a simple quadripartite form like that at Gisborough (Wilson 
1987, 186). Whilst large scale design motifs, such as tracery patterns and triforium design, 



Fig. 26. Side view of the stub 
of the north arcade of the 
presbytery showing the remains 
of the arch, triforium and 

can be identified it should be borne in mind that many minor details such as moulding 
profiles are also very similar. 

In common with the York nave where the principal patrons were commemorated by 
shields of arms set in the nave arcade spandrels, Gisborough displayed similar shields on 
the jambs of the east window (Figs 18, 20). Such displays of heraldry seem to have 
become fashionable in the late thirteenth century and the contemporary gatehouse at 
Kirkham Priory also has the arms of its principal patrons (Peers i960, 2—3. Goppack 
et al. 1995, 107—08). Gisborough has also produced a heraldic vault boss, with naturalistic 
foliage, the shield apparently representing the arms of Latimer, though this does not 
appear, on present evidence, to have been from the church. York was probably designed 
in 1289—90 and commenced in 1290 under the direction of Simon, the cathedral master 
mason (Harvey 1977, 149-56). The close dating of the two buildings raises problems 
regarding which was the prior design but it seems most likely that Gisborough, as with 
many earlier features of its architecture, derived its design from York. It may well be the 



Fig. 27. Springer from the triforium arches of the presbytery, showing the group of shafts dividing the 
trefoiled arches which were intended to carry an inner plane of glazed tracery. This was abandoned 
during construction and the window tracery realigned with the external wallface. 

case that master Simon acted as consultant and that Gisborough represents another of 
his designs. Whatever the case the close similarities in the two designs show that the 
Gisborough master had intimate knowledge of York. 

The devastation of the great fire must have been considerable and details from the 
Chartulary indicate how the priory was plunged into debt to finance the rebuilding 
programme. In 1276 the priory income was 2000 marks, and this did not include the 
income from the Scottish estates, but 16 years later they were heavily in debt. In 1302 
the canons were quite proud to have managed to pay off £225 185. 6 d. from the debts 
(Brown II, 367). After the fire they petitioned the king to allow the priory to appropriate 
the revenue of three churches, specifically to relieve the poverty caused by the fire (Brown 
II, 345). Various indulgences issued during the early years of the fourteenth century show 
that the work was proceeding slowly (Brown II, 353-57). Indeed Gisborough suffered 
badly during the war with Scotland and as well as losing revenue took in displaced canons 
from Hexham, Jedburgh and Brinkburn (Brown II, 353-57). In addition to work on the 
church, it appears that other parts of the monastic buildings including the south and 
west ranges were rebuilt. The latter can be connected with the site of the prior’s hall 
which was described as newly built in 1302 when the bishop of Whithorn issued an 
indulgence to those visiting the chapel of St Hilda beside the New Hall at Gisborough 
(Brown II, 410— 1 1). This raises the possibility that the work on the church was delayed 







Fig. 28. Reconstruction of the presbytery main bay design. 

until York was already well advanced. This may be confirmed by the use of the same 
tracery pattern on the buttresses which seems to have been abandoned early at 
Gisborough but appears on the western tower buttresses at York, which Harvey suggests 
could not have been built until after the removal of the old western towers around 
1315-20 (Harvey 1977, 153). 

The actual extent of the rebuilding of the presbytery is suspect from the presence of 
major Early Gothic stonework fragments in the stone collection. That not all the earlier 



presbytery was swept away is confirmed by the Hollar engraving of 1660 in Sir William 
Dugdale’s Monasticon Anglicanum. This shows that parts of the north aisle were still standing 
and retained towards the west end the unmistakable outlines of the late 1 2th-century 
windows. It would seem that the canons remodelled their church after the fire and grafted 
a new facade on to the east end. Since the presbytery in its final form apparently 
comprised nine bays, a length which was unlikely in the twelfth century, but was possibly 
a reference to the recently rebuilt St Mary’s Abbey at York (Wilson and Burton 1988), 
it seems likely that they extended the building by at least three bays. Internally this would 
have given an unusual appearance to the design, but one that can be paralleled at Ripon 
where the virtually contemporary remodelling of the presbytery involved rebuilding only 
the three eastern bays and adding a new facade (Hallet 1909, 96-104). As already 
mentioned above in basic design the great east window at Ripon resembles that at 
Gisborough and overall the facade has the same chunkiness of outline with similar deep 
heavy buttresses and conical cappings on the stair turrets. In this respect the Gisborough 
presbytery forms only one of a group of buildings within the region which started at St 
Mary’s in 1272 and also includes, besides Ripon, facades at Howden, Selby, Carlisle and 
the demolished church at Thornton Abbey. Ripon and Selby also employed timber high 
vaults whilst Carlisle had an updated version of the timber barrel ceiling. All these fronts 
have a strong regional flavour and similar characteristics. 


Amongst the loose stonework are several pieces of the choirstall sub bases (Fig. 29) which 
have a moulded projection on the front marking a buttress division in the timber stallwork 
and small cusped quatrefoils set within a circle which were pierced through the bases to 
ventilate the space beneath the stalls and increase the resonance in the choir. Most of 
the pieces have quatrefoils but there are also examples devoid of this feature. Presumably 
these bases were discovered during Admiral Chaloner’s excavation of the church and 
confirm that he was digging in the choir. It is unlikely that they were found in situ and 
the excavators probably never realised what they were and the bases were removed from 
the church along with the other loose debris. 


Fig. 29. Elevation of the sub-bases of the presbytery choirstalls (Scale, 1:10). 




The geophysical survey (Fig. 3) gives the first evidence of structural remains in the cloister 
garth. The presence of a north-south linear high resistance feature running parallel to a 
band of low resistance might indicate a path across the cloister, perhaps with grave slabs 
and/ or stone coffins to one side. There is nothing known of the later history of this area 
which might explain this feature; the cloister garth had become a bowling green by 1709 
(Knyff drawing, reproduced in Harrison and Dixon 1982, Plate 4) with the surviving 
fragment of the south range serving as some sort of clubhouse. The survey shows the 
eastern arm of the cloister very clearly and gives the width of the range along this side 
(approx. 12 m). 

Included amongst the loose stone work are parts of a laver. This is made from Frosterley 
marble and represents the facia in front of the water distribution tank or pipework. It is 
sufficiently complete to enable a reconstruction of its form and how it functioned to be 
made (Fig. 30). The facia is moulded along its upper edge and relatively plain in design. 
It has holes spaced at regular intervals for the lead pipes, some of which remain embedded 
in the stone where they were cut off at the Dissolution. This is not the only laver of this 
type which is known for a similar, but more ornate, twelfth-century example has been 
recognised at Byland Abbey (Harrison unpub , 44, Fig. 20 and Coppack 1990, 94, Fig. 60). 
This was apparently smashed with hammers at the Dissolution in order to recover the 
valuable lead pipes. Presumably the pipes either spouted water continuously into a drain- 
age trough below or they were fitted with some form of taps. No record remains of where 
or when the Gisborough laver was discovered but it seems most likely that it was found 
during the clearance of the western range during the 1950s. Augustinian houses usually 
had the laver positioned against the east wall of the west range towards the south end 
of the western cloister alley and this area borders the limits of the 1950s excavation. 


The low walling of the west range, revealed in the excavation campaigns of 1947-54, 
show a substantial building with a central row of octagonal piers which supported a series 
of ribbed vaults. These have largely gone and only a moulded corbel against the west 
wall serves to show the height of the vault springing. Much debris was recovered from 
the excavation and this includes numerous chamfered vault ribs and some of the springers 
from the vaulting. The surviving vault keystones show that the diagonal arch ribs were 
semi-circular and from this it is possible to estimate the height of the vaulting. The west 
wall has a bold sloping plinth and retains some of the doorway and window openings, 
distinguished by interruptions of the plinth for the doorways and stepped internal jambs 
for the windows. At the north end is the entrance to the outer parlour where canons 
could meet with their relatives. The building is subdivided by inserted cross walls and 
on the disposition of the doorways must always have formed a series of distinct chambers. 
The south wall has a blocked central doorway and there is a large stairbase ascending 
towards the north for access to the upper chambers. At the south end of the range it is 
intersected by the west end of the south range which has a large chamber which was 
vaulted with two large recesses along the south wall. The eastern end of this structure 
can be clearly seen on the geophysical survey (Fig. 2). Adjoining on the south there is a 
vaulted passage with semi-circular arches with chamfered ribs, springing from moulded 
corbels. This appears to be contemporary with the details of the west range and seems 
to have formed part of the same scheme of rebuilding. The passage apparently continued 
further east for springers for an additional bay of vaulting have been crudely hacked 
away. In the south wall is a hatch which must have been used to pass food from the 





kitchen, on the south side, through to the passage to the frater. The rest of the claustral 
buildings are deeply buried and await future excavation, but can be traced on the geo- 
physical survey. A rectangular feature to the south-east of the cloister represents part of 
the refectory. The absence of walls to the west of this must represent differential robbing 
following the Dissolution. 


The gatehouse apparently remained in use into the eighteenth century (Goppack 1993) 
but eventually was stripped of its roof and allowed to decay. The surviving remains show 
that the building dates from the middle years of the twelfth century and is typical of 
gatehouses built at that time. The main gate passage faces north and the facade has a 
single large round-headed arch flanked by buttresses. The arch is deeply moulded though 
unfortunately heavily weathered. The interior passage is decorated by a stringcourse 
which is carried around its capital as an abacus. In the internal angles are decayed 
moulded corbels which support the springers of a vault. These do not form part of the 
original design and are clearly inserted into the existing fabric. The surviving details of 
the corbels suggest a late thirteenth century or fourteenth-century date for the vaulting. 
The gate passage is subdivided by two cross arches, the larger of which is an unusual 
shape, presumably in order to allow the maximum amount of headroom for wagons 
passing through the gatehouse. The smaller arch was for the use of pedestrians. South 
of these cross arches the building is largely ruined but would have extended at least 
another bay and had another large round-headed arch. The gates would have been hung 
on the pair of cross arches. On the exterior of the west wall the chamfered base plinth 
can be traced around the buttresses and it appears that a wall has been built across 
between them to form a garderobe shaft from the upper floor. In recent repairs a small 
piece of a twelfth-century scallop capital was recovered from the rough walling on the 
west side. 

A large rectangular hall is clearly visible on the geophysical survey to the east of the 
gatehouse (Fig. 3). The dimensions of this are approximately 22 m x 17 m. The interior 
space has a uniform, moderate, resistance, possibly representing the intact floor. Part of 
the north wall of this has been incorporated into the present precinct wall containing a 
small chamber or passage within the width. There is a gap to the south of this, and then 
evidence of extensive buildings between the west range and the dovecote, in the present 
market garden. 


A considerable number of the names of masons working at Gisborough are known from 
charters listed in the priory Chartulary. Mainly occurring as witnesses they can be separ- 
ated into two distinct periods. The first covers charters granted during the time of priors 
Roald (occurs 1 199), Lawrence (occurs 121 1, quondam 1219) and Alichael (occurs between 
1218 and 1234) and the names include Radulfus (G C I, CXX), Roberto {op. cit ., clxii; 
xlii mentions Roberto and Radulfo together), Gylbertus {op. cit., clxxx) all of whom are 
described as cementarius. Within this same group of charters mention is also made of Gocte 
{op. cit., civ) and Alanum {op. cit., clxiv) who are described as carpentarius. Hugo Fabro 
{op. cit., cxxxiv) perhaps a smith and another charter mentions Alberto filio Symonis 
Fabri {op. cit., cv). Whilst references have been given to specific charters it should be noted 
that some of the names feature throughout a number of charters, Radulfo, for instance, 
being mentioned in at least nine different documents. 

The second series of charters is dated firmly to 1 250 and refers to two distinct building 
projects. The first is the elemosinariae, apparently referring to the Almery. Gilberto {op. cit., 



Fig. 3 1 . The gatehouse, south elevation. 

cclxi) described as cementarius , William de Selby, caementarii {op. cit., ccli) who was described 
as the son of Roberti Caementarii {op. cit., cel). Mention is also made of Elyas son of Roger 
Caementarii {op. cit., ccliii) and Thomas Caementarri {op. cit. cclviv) who occurs as a witness 
to a charter issued by Elyas which mentions Magistro Roberto Caementario Magister Gylberto 
Caementario as one of the witnesses. Adam Fforner is described as Magister Caementarius. 
Roger Caementarii also occurs, presumably the father of Elyas {op. cit., cclvii). 

The second building project was work on the church, possibly the construction of the 
western towers and facade. Radulfo and Henrico are described as caementario {op. cit., 
cclxi) and Roberto is mentioned as the son of Henrici Caementarii {op. cit., cclxxxv). Radulfo 
Magister Caementario occurs {op. cit., cclxxxix) as a witness to a charter of Nicholas and in 
the following charter by the same donor one of the witnesses is Radulfo Caementario {op. cit., 
ccxc). The following charter is one by Radulfus son of Stephen Caementarii which has 
Magister Gylberto Caementario as one of the witnesses. Adam Horner is described as Magister 
Caementarius {op. cit., ccxcvi). Elyas son of Rogeri Caementarii recurs and his charter mentions 
Magister Robertas Caementarius {op. cit., ccxcviii). Henrico, Gylberto, Roberto, Radulfo and 
Hugone Fabris all occur as witnesses to further charters. Besides the specific titles of 
Caementarii or Magister Caementarius mentioned above, a charter of Willelmus mentions c a 
Domino Stephano, tunc Magistro fabricae S. Mariae de Gy sebum {op. cit., ccxcv). Stephano is 
also mentioned as Magistro in another charter {op. cit., cccii) and Janet Burton, in her 
unpublished study of the charters, has identified this as referring to the master in charge 
of the building works and dates this reference to the period 1 185-1 195 ad {op. cit., ccxciv). 
Apparently Stephen did not have sole responsibility because another charter mentions 
Stephen and Robert, masters of the work {op. cit., ccxxcv). 

These lists of masons are confused by the apparent recurrence of certain names and 
the variety of titles employed. It certainly seems from the descriptions that these were 



related family groups in which the trade was handed down from father to son. William 
de Seleby son of Robert Cementarii suggests a connexion with Selby Abbey and that 
William had learned his trade working at the Benedictine abbey. Several masons are 
described as Magister including Robertus, Gylberto, and Adam Horner and this may 
mean that they were senior masons under the control of Domino Stephano who is Magistro 
Fabricae. His title of Domino suggests that he was a member of the religious community. 
Alternatively, each Magister may have had control of one particular building project such 
as the almery or church, or even have been retired and no longer practising his trade 
but still retaining his title. The repetition of some names from the earlier thirteenth 
century may show the survival of the same masons into the middle of the century, though 
all the names are relatively common. The fact that several of the masons were making 
grants to the fabric shows that they had prospered at Gisborough and that they expected 
the work to continue for some time to come. In the event the great fire of 1289 must 
have exceeded all their expectations of future employment. 


The project was instigated by the Properties in Care Section of English Heritage, and warm thanks 
are extended to Stephen Johnson, David Sherlock, James Lang and Glyn Coppack for support 
throughout the work. The staff of Cleveland Leisure Services were responsible for the efficient 
administration of the Gisborough survey work, particularly Blaise Vyner, the County Archaeologist, 
and Louise Hutchinson, who drew the east end elevations, and Newcastle City Council performed 
that task for the report production. David Glendinning was the Project Draughtsman. 

Stuart Harrison would like to thank those who helped in various ways during the writing of this 
report. Bryan Wynn, then site custodian at Guisborough, helped with various aspects including 
access to stored material and general knowledge about the site. Glyn Coppack provided information 
gained during his researches for the site guidebook whilst Janet Burton most kindly provided a 
copy of her unpublished study of the priory charters and discussed the section relating to the 
masons. John Hutchinson commented on the reconstruction of the east window tracery. Ray 
Conn, the site mason, proved an interesting fund of knowledge and drew my attention to the 
surviving fragment of window jamb which matched with the masons’ drawing on the church 


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J. Brown, The History of the Metropolitan Church of St Peter (York). 

W. Brown (ed) ‘Guisborough Chartulary P, Surtees Society 86 (1889). 

W. Brown (ed) ‘Guisborough Chartulary IP, Surtees Society 89 (1891). 

J. Burton, unpub. Guisborough Priory: Report on the Documentary Sources. Notes prepared for English 
Heritage, transcribed from the Chartulary and other sources. 

N. Coldstream, ‘York Chapter House’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association 35, 15-23 (1972). 

N. Coldstream, ‘York Minster and the Decorated style in Yorkshire’, TAJ. 52, 89 1 10 (1980). 

G. H. Cook, English Monasteries in the Middle Ages (London 1961). 

G. Coppack, Abbeys and Priories (London 1990). 

G. Coppack, Fountains Abbey (London 1 993). 

G. Coppack, Gisborough Priory , English Heritage Official Guide (1993). 

G. Coppack, S. Harrison and C. Hayheld ‘The Architecture and Archaeology of an Augustinian House’, 
Journal of the British Archaeological Association CXLVI 11 , 55-136 (1995). 

J. C. Dickinson, The Origins of the Austin Canons and their Introduction into England (1950). 

R. W. Darnton and G. Dixon, ‘Admiral Thomas Chaloner of Guisborough (1815- 1884)’, Bulletin of the 
Cleveland and Teesside Local History Society , 47, 1—9 (1984). 

R. Fawcett, Scottish Cathedrals (London 1997). 

P. G. Fergusson, Architecture of Solitude: Cistercian Abbeys in Twelfth Century England (Princeton 1985). 

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E. A. Gee, ‘York Minster: Architectural History until 1920’, in G. A. Aylmer and R. Gants (eds) A History 
of York Minster (Oxford 1977). 

R. Gilyard-Beer, Gis borough Priory. Cleveland , English Heritage Handbooks (London, revised 1971). 

R. Gilyard-Beer and G. Coppack, ‘Excavations at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire, 1979-80. The Early 
Development of the Monastery’, Archaeologia , 147 88 (1986). 

J. Graves, The History of Cleveland (1808). 

C. Hallet, The Cathedral Church of Ripon (1909). 

R. Halsey, ‘The earliest architecture of the Cistercians in England’ in C. Norton and D. Park (eds), Cistercian 
art and architecture in the British Isles (1986). 

B.J. D. Harrison and G. Dixon, Guisborough before 1 goo (Great Ayton 1982). 

S. A. Harrison, By land Abbey, English Heritage Official Guidebook (1990). 

S. Harrison and P. Barker, ‘Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire: The West Front and Rose Window Reconstructed’, 
Journal of the British Archaeological Association , 140 134-51 (1987). 

S. A. Harrison, unpub. The Architecture of Byland Abbey, M.A. Dissertation, University of York (1988). 

S. A. Harrison, ‘T he Stonework 1 , in D. H. Heslop, ‘Excavation within the church at the Augustinian Priory 
of Gisborough, Cleveland’, Y.A.J. 67, 80-116 (1995). 

S. A. Harrison, ‘Kirkstall Abbey: The Twelfth Century Tracery and Rose Window’, Yorkshire Monasticism, 
ed. L. R. Hoey, British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions XVI, 73-78 (1995). 

J. Harvey, ‘York Minster: Architectural History from 1291- 1558’, in G. E. Aylmer and R. Cant (eds) A History 
of York Minster (Oxford 1977). 

D. H. Heslop, ‘Excavation within the church at the Augustinian Priory of Gisborough, Cleveland’, Y.A.J. 67, 

W. H. St John Hope, Fountains Abbey (Leeds 1900). 

B. Hope-Taylor, Under York Minster (York 1971). 

R. L. Mackie and S. Cruden, Arbroath Abbey, HMSO Official Guidebook (1985). 

P. J. McAleer, ‘Romanesque England and the development of the facade harmonique’, Gesta 23, 87 1 05 ( 1 984). 

C. Norton and S. Oosterwijk, ‘Figure Sculpture from the Twelfth Century Minster’, Friends of York. Minster 
Annual Report , 1 1-20 (1990). 

S. Oosterwijk, ‘Gisborough Priory’, in Romanesque, Stone Sculpture from Medieval England, (Leeds 1993). 

J. W. Ord, The History and Antiquities of Cleveland (Edinburgh 1846). 

D. O’Sullivan, ‘Prior Pursglove of Guisborough’, Bulletin of the Cleveland and Teesside Local History Society 36, 

W-24 (i979)-. 

C. R. Peers, Kirkham Priory, HMSO Official Guidebook (i960). 

N. Pevsner, Buildings of England: Yorkshire North Riding (1966). 

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The Council of the Society is grateful to English Heritage for a generous grant in support of the publication 
of this article. 

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 71, iggg 




By Blaise Vyner 

Report on archaeological recording carried out in conjunction with repair work, 1996 97 

An archaeological watching and recording brief carried out in conjunction with repair work at Old Holy 
Cross Church, Whorlton, Swainby, North Yorkshire (Nf 4.8350247) recovered the plan of the chantry 
chapel and clarified the extended structural history of the church. A late eleventh- century grave-slab, 
utilised in the foundation of the chantry chapel wall, was discovered during the excavation of a 
drainage trench. 


Repair work carried out on the fabric of the church and with drainage works around its 
perimeter necessitated associated archaeological work which was commissioned by 
Swainby Parochial Church Council and undertaken in liaison with the architect, Ronald 
Sims, and the contractor, Peter Martin. The work was carried out intermittently between 
June and September 1996, being completed during February 1997. 

The repair and restoration of Old Holy Cross Church has revealed further evidence 
for the history of the church, some of which raises more questions than answers. The 
work has been valuable, however, not only in adding new information, but also in 
stimulating the first assessment of the church in terms of the archaeology of the building, 
rather than in reference to architectural or documentary history (Fig. 1 1). This provides 
a sequence against which absolute dates can be placed, or which can be related to the 
fortunes, dated or otherwise, of the manor, castle and village of Whorlton. 

While precise dates are lacking, it is clear that the church enjoyed a period of continuing 
development through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, its importance attested by 
the presence of a very high quality wooden effigy of a knight (Fryer 1909, 552), supposed 
to be Sir Nicholas de Meynell who died in 1322. The church reached its greatest size 
during the fifteenth century, when a chantry chapel was added to the north of the chancel. 
By this time the nave had been expanded to include aisles to north and south. During 
the fifteenth century the church was the location of a substantial canopied tomb, which 
was later to became the base for the Meynell effigy. 

The church was further altered during the fifteenth century, however, with the demo- 
lition of the south aisle and the construction of a tower on the south side of the nave. 
Further alterations followed, with the demolition of the north aisle, probably early in the 
nineteenth century, being followed by the consolidation of the chancel as a mortuary 
chapel in 1875 and construction of a replacement church in Swainby. 


Whorl Hill, 1 km to the east of Whorlton church, is the location of a substantial late 
Roman silver hoard, discovered in 1810 (Hartley 1978, 13). Roman pottery was dis- 
covered during drainage works for the extension of Whorlton churchyard in 1907 (Fowler 
1909, 208). This discovery prompted excavations to the east of the church in 1923, when 
medieval pottery was found perhaps associated with a cobbled surface. A campaign of 



trial excavation around the church itself was conducted in 1927, when a few sherds of 
Roman pottery were discovered (Elgee 1929, 31-32). Excavation work carried out in 
conjunction with a further extension of the churchyard in 1977 recovered further Roman 
pottery associated with a shallow ditch or held boundary (Elartley 1978, 14). Although 
it has been suggested that the church may lie at the focus of Roman activity (Elgee 1929, 
32), no trace was seen during the present restoration campaign. However, as the gravel- 
clay subsoil would seem to offer a firm foundation, the repeated rebuilds of the east end 
and south side of the church may suggest the underlying presence of ditches or pits. 

Whorlton church lies to the east of an extensive series of earthworks associated with 
the castle and later park, and to the north and north-east of the village of Whorlton. 
The earthwork remains have recently been surveyed in detail (rchm 1989). The road 
which leads past the church on its north side, and now affords access to the church, 
appears to be of relatively recent origin. For much of its history the church was 
approached from the south, where the earthwork remains of a track leads from the 
western part of the former village, now represented by a series of earthwork enclosures 
and platforms. 


There are few early descriptions of the church and none offers any substantial assistance 
in the interpretation of the development of the structure. According to Graves (1808, 
147) the church was in his time: 

a plain and humble structure, with a square tower placed at the side. It seems to 
have undergone little or no alteration since the aera of the Reformation, and exhibits 
traces of Roman Catholic worship in the niches for saints, etc. ... Within the church, 
on the north side of the chancel, in an arch of the wall which divides the chancel 
from what we suppose to have been the chauntry-chapel, there is an ancient 
monument of Sir Nicholas de Meynill. 

Some forty years later Ord’s description was rather more flowery but little more helpful: 
The church is an ancient edifice; the tower placed on one side, fronting the south; 
the nave and chancel supported by buttresses, and rude heads terminate the corbels. 
The chancel is divided from the body of the church by a round early-Norman arch. 
The eastern window (thickly shaded by a dense covering of ivy, which has pierced 
the old walls from without, and now riots in undisturbed luxuriance directly over the 
altar) contains some small portions of stained glass. 

He went on to say: 

From the windows and walls near the altar project well-carved heads, some of them 
formed to sustain images of saints or the holy family. South of the altar is a piscina; 
none of these old remains being much injured or mutilated. A considerable portion 
of the ancient chantry chapel still exists in a perfect state, extending north of the 
chapel, and forming a distinct wing 

(Ord 1846, 449). 

All this is unfortunate as it would be helpful to have had a more detailed description 
of the old church before the demolition of the chantry chapel and the consolidation of 
parts of the fabric of the nave in 1875. Subsequent histories have relied upon on an 
examination of the surviving fabric, supported by the surviving documentary record. 
Accounts of the church and parish were published by the antiquarian vicar, Reverend 
J. C. Fowler (Fowler 1892; 1902; 1909a); while the Victoria County History offers a full 
description of the fabric visible a few years later (Page 1923, 315-17). This is usefully 



summarised in the current church guide, which also brings in something more of the 
archaeological and historical context of the building (Hartley 1978). Perhaps surprisingly, 
Pevsner’s description confuses the south and north arcades and does not greatly concern 
itself with the structural sequence beyond suggesting that the west bay of the nave appears 
to be earlier on the north side than on the south (1966, 400—01). Useful information on 
the architectural detail of the church before the reconstruction work of 1875-76 is 
included in the specification of the architect, Thomas Wyatt, and in subsequent correspon- 
dence contained in the Ailesbury archive of the North Yorkshire Record Office (nyro). 
Transcripts of relevant material have been made available through the good offices of 
Mrs Joan Hartley (see Appendix). Brief study has been made of these and the resulting 
information has been integrated with the detail obtained in the current survey. 

In 1989-90 the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments of England completed a 
detailed plan of the earthworks surrounding the castle at Whorlton, which provides 
further detail of the landscape context of the church (rchm 1990). 


A photographic record was made of all areas of the church fabric likely to be affected 
by the restoration work. This involved 35 mm photography, in monochrome and colour 
transparency, of the interior and exterior walls of the nave and chancel. It should be 
noted that the interior of the tower, and the upper parts of its external walls, have not 
been recorded as they were not affected by this phase of consolidation work. 

Below ground disturbance was associated with the excavation of a French drain around 
the south, east and north walls of the chancel. This was linked by drains to soakaways 
to the north and south (Fig. 1). Removal of upper levels was for the most part undertaken 
by the mason’s team, with cleaning of features and excavation of lower levels carried out 
by the archaeologist. Remedial work to buttresses at the south-west and south-east corners 
of the chancel, to infilled doorways in its north wall, and to fragments of masonry at the 
west end of the nave, also necessitated archaeological investigation and recording. Raking 
out for repointing of the nave arcade and chancel exterior walls (Figs. 2 and 3), and 
removal of plaster from the lower parts of the chancel interior wall also entailed archaeo- 
logical recording. The photographic recording was repeated following the completion of 
repair and consolidation work. 

The nave 

Drainage trench at south-east exterior 

A drain trench, 0.25 m wide and at this point 0.35 m deep, excavated along the south 
wall of the chancel, was extended round the stub of wall forming the existing south-east 
corner of the nave. This revealed that the chamfered plinth of the chancel south wall 
made a return to the west on the fine of the existing nave south arcade. Below ground 
level the stub of wall which serves today as a buttress to this corner of the nave was seen 
to be founded on the remains of the east wall of the nave south arcade. This was butted 
against the original south wall of the nave. As no attempt had been made to remove the 
chamfered plinth of this wall the straight joint below the plinth level was continued above 
by a gap up to 2.5 cm wide. In the arcade east wall the line of the chamfered plinth was 
maintained by a somewhat larger chamfered course (Fig. 4). 

Except for a small element of masonry incorporated in the later buttress, the east wall 
of the south arcade had been completely removed, the construction of the buttress itself 
had requiring the re-use of lower course slabs as a somewhat ad hoc foundation whose 
structural weakness had been revealed by a widening of the inadequate straight joint 
against the original south wall of the nave. The discovery of a number of disarticulated 



. Sketch plan of Whorlton Old Holy Cross church, showing drainage excavations around the chancel and the 

location of the chantry chapel north wall. 



Fig. 2. Whorlton Old Holy Cross church: nave and chancel arch after repair, 1997. 

human bones in this area suggested that the robbing of the arcade wall had disturbed a 
nearby burial. 

Continuation of the drain trench round the stub of the aisle east wall revealed a single 
large slab of stone set on edge at 90° to the wall face. This may have been a support for 
the floor or a fitting. 

Remedial works to the nave west end 

The masonry fragment of the west end of the north arcade was largely unidentifiable 
beneath a cloak of ivy and rubble. Removal of the overgrowth and loose stone revealed 
the damaged remains of the buttress extending west from this corner (Fig. 5), and 
the tumbled masonry of the western pillar of the arcade, including the capital. After 
photographic recording the roots and loose material were removed and the fragment 
consolidated, including rebuilding the column to include the capital. 

Raking out of loose pointing in the buttress-like fragment at the south-east corner of 
the existing nave revealed this to be the stub of the west wall of the nave, the core of 
which was in a perilously loose state. This has now been consolidated and repointed. 

The chancel 

Excavation of drainage trenches around the chancel 

A trench was excavated around the chancel to allow the insertion of a French drain, the 
trench was on average 0.25 m wide, and varied in depth from around 0.45 m at the west 
end to around 0.30 m at the east end, where the ground fell away. 

Along the north side of the chancel the trench revealed the floor level of the former 
chantry chapel, except along the centre section of the chancel where this had been 
removed by the nineteenth-century construction of a wall around the so-called Meynell 
monument, a critical point where the chantry chapel appears to have been divided, or 
where it retained the floor of an earlier chapel. The drainage trench revealed at its 



Fig. 3. Whorlton Old Holy Gross church: tower and adjacent south arcade after repairs to the arcading, 1997. 

Fig. 4. Detail of chamfered plinth around the chancel: a, west end of chancel south wall; b, nave former 

east wall; c, centre section of chancel south wall. 

westernmost point a sole surviving fine-grained sandstone floor flag, but there was no 
information on the relationship between this flagged floor in the western part of the 
chapel and the concrete which paved its eastern area. Below the chapel floor level the 
trench revealed the chamfered plinth above the foundation courses. At the west end this 
mirrored the scale of the chamfer on the south side of the chancel, but east of the 



Fig. 5. Whorlton Old Holy Cross church: remains of the north-west corner of the nave after removal 

of overgrowth and rubble, and before consolidation, 1997. 

nineteenth-century tomb recess the chamfer had taken on the scale of the plinth seen 
along the east wall. 

At the west end of the chancel north wall a blocked square-headed doorway is clearly 
visible in the fabric of the wall. Excavation of the drainage trench revealed that the door 
had been a secondary feature, and had been cut into the wall to a level which entailed 
breaking the chamfered plinth (Fig. 6). This would appear to have led from the interior 
of the chancel into a structure on the exterior which once had a floor level below that 
of the chancel, and, indeed, the chantry chapel. Further information on this door was 
recovered during observation of the fabric of the chancel wall, described below, although 
the nature of the area into which it led is unclear. 

Adjacent to this doorway another blocked square-headed doorway was directly related 
to the floor levels of the former chantry chapel. This appears to have given access from 
the chancel into the chantry chapel. 

No human bones were encountered during the excavation of the drain along the north 
side of the chancel wall. 

The drainage trench continued round the nineteenth-century construction enclosing 
the Meynell monument, extending around the buttresses at the north-east corner of the 
chancel. Here the east wall of the former chantry chapel extended from the line of the 
east wall of the chancel, although it was not possible to examine its relationship with 
the chancel. It was 0.92 m in thickness. 

The excavation of the drainage trench along the east wall of the chancel revealed it 
to be of one build, although even here, where the external ground level was at its lowest, 
the base of the wall was not revealed. Evidence that this wall was not the original one, 
or that there had been a change of plan during its construction, was revealed by the use 
of two foundation-course stones with chamfered edges which were redundant in their 



Fig. 6. Chancel north wall, showing the late-blocked door to the chantry 
chapel (left), and the blocked doorway cutting the chamfered plinth (right). 

eventual location. Observation of the above-ground fabric provided further information 
on the construction sequence, see the discussion of the chancel south-east corner but- 
tresses, below. The east wall had been provided with a chamfered plinth which is of the 
same style as that seen along the east end of its south wall. Dislocated by the buttress 
which replaced the nineteenth-century demolition of the chantry chapel, a similar style 
of chamfered plinth was noted along the eastern end of the chancel north wall. A few 
isolated discoveries of human bone were made during the excavation of the drainage 
trench along the chancel east wall. 

On the south side of the chancel excavation of the drainage trench revealed the plinth 
with narrow chamfer which appears to have accompanied the construction of the earliest 
period of the church. This extended eastwards as far as the blocked doorway, where it 
was replaced by a stepped foundation which was clearly later (Fig. 7). The stepped 
foundation extended to the buttress in the eastern central part of the chancel wall, 
whereupon a chamfered plinth was re-instated. This plinth, however, had an extended 
chamfer which continued around the south-east corner buttress and along the east wall. 

Fig. 7. Chancel south wall: detail of door threshold (a), and chamfered course (b). 


Extending drains and soakaways 

A soakaway, around 1.20 m square and with a maximum depth of 0.80 m was excavated 
6.25 m north of the west end of the chancel (Fig. 1, B). Underlying the dark topsoil level 
a mixed gravel deposit is thought to be natural in origin and no archaeological features 
were noted. The excavation of two drainage trenches linking this soakaway to the French 
drain on the north side of the chancel recovered substantial evidence for the former 
chantry chapel. 

A trench, of average width 0.24 m, running from the soakaway to the north-east corner 
of the chancel revealed a concrete floor 0.07 m below the current ground surface. This 
extended from the chancel wall northwards to the robber trench of a former wall, the 
lowermost foundation course of which comprised substantial stone slabs with an average 
width of 1 m. This is interpreted as the north wall of the former chantry chapel (Fig. 1, 
A), which can now be shown to have had an internal width of almost 3 m. Excavation 
of the robber trench fill recovered a few fragments of glass, two of which were modern, 
but four appear to be medieval. Drainage requirements entailed the cutting of the con- 
crete floor, which proved to be 80-90 mm thick, founded on a mixed rubble level, while 
a single large slab from the wall foundation was also removed. 

A second trench 0.24 m wide was excavated to link the soakaway with the western 
end of the chancel drain (Fig. 8). In this area the concrete floor was not encountered, 
and instead mixed rubble deposits were found. The trench appeared to run immediately 
to the north of a poorly constructed wall, 0.45 m wide, one of whose constituent dressed 
stones had been lime-washed on its north face. The limited depth and width of the 
drainage trench did not permit a full archaeological interpretation of these deposits. 

This trench also crossed the lower course of the chantry chapel north wall and it was 
noted that the upper surface of a large slab, which intruded into the path of the drain, 
bore decoration. Cleaning revealed a rough interlace pattern on the stone, which, after 
recording, was lifted. The adjoining slab to the east proved to be the joining piece, which 
was also lifted. The two pieces had been placed contiguously in the foundation, but, as 
the top part had been placed so as to invert the pattern, it is clear that the significance 
of the stone was no longer regarded at the time of its deposition. 

Chantry chapel ' Limewashed 

foundation face 

0 2m 

S Topsoil 0 Robber trench-dark soil 0 Construction deposit - lime & rubble 

0 Stone 0 Construction rubble 0 Construction deposit -mortar 

Fig. 8. Section along drainage trench from chancel north wall across former chantry chapel to northern 




In contrast to the excavation of drainage trenches on the south side of the chancel, 
no human bones were noted during these excavations. 

On the south side of the chancel a soakaway, around i m square was excavated at 
right angles to the south-east corner of the chancel and 1 3 m distant from it, avoiding 
marked burials and not encountering any skeletal remains. Below the 0.30 m of topsoil 
only the gravel subsoil was encountered. A drainage trench linking the soakaway to the 
chancel French drain and fall pipe crossed the location of a row of nineteenth-century 
burials but did not interfere with them as it did not exceed 0.34 m in depth. A number 
of disarticulated bones from most parts of the human skeleton were discovered during 
the excavation of this trench. 

Buttresses to the chancel south-east corner 

The gabled buttresses to the south and east of the south-east corner of the chancel were 
seen to be parted from the fabric of the main building. Excavation of the drainage trench 
around these buttresses revealed that the south buttress appeared to have been placed 
upon the lowest course of an earlier buttress (Fig. 9). The stones forming the chamfered 
plinth of the former construction stood completely free of the later construction. In style 
and size these chamfered stones were similar to the chamfered plinth seen along the 
western part of the chancel. These few stones have been left in position. A few stones 
set against the base of the west buttress may once have formed the foundation of a slight 
rubble wall extending to the east, although for what purpose is unclear — the existence 
of a nineteenth-century tombstone allowed only the minimal insertion of the drain at 
this point. 

In order to assess the structural quality of this corner of the chancel the existing east 
buttress was dismantled, showing that the south and east buttresses were built as one 
with the existing east wall of the chancel. 


Fig. 9. Chancel south-east buttress: 

below ground details. 


Evidence from the above-ground fabric of the chancel 

Repairs to the buttresses at the south-east corner of the chancel have been noted above. 
These show that the buttresses were an integral part of the eastern end of the chancel 
south wall and the east wall of the church. The buttress on the north wall at the north- 
east corner was constructed following the demolition of the chantry chapel, so it has not 
been possible to see any evidence for the original relationship between chancel and chapel. 

Surface finish suggests that a considerable portion of centre part of the chancel south 
wall has been rebuilt, and this correlates with the section of stepped foundation. The 
interior detail of the blocked south doorway, immediately adjacent to the extended west 
window, was revealed by plaster removal. 

Removal of plaster from the interior suggests that fragments of older masonry survive 
within the rebuilt external buttress on the chancel south wall. Also in this internal sector, 
the scar of a previous altar rail was observed, 0.32 m to the west of the existing one; it 
was 100 mm wide. 

In the chancel north wall removal of plaster revealed the blocked square-headed door- 
way leading from the chancel into the former chantry chapel; as on the exterior, this 
had been filled with stones bearing typical nineteenth-century herring-bone tooling. 

At the east end of the chancel exterior north wall a blocked square-headed entry had 
a decayed wooded lintel. Removal of the lintel prior to infilling and pointing allowed the 
recording of a deeply splayed recess in which a pointed arch for a door was set low in 
the wall (Fig. 10). Removal of the interior plaster provided further detail of this door, 
which has a trefoil head in thirteenth-century style. In the lower part of the east jamb a 
slot has been cut. 

Raking out of the mortar joints in the external face of the chancel east wall revealed 
the put-log holes on either side of the window at its head and foot, with a further pair 
of holes set lower in the wall. 


The structural sequence proposed here is based on observation of the standing fabric 
and those parts of the buried fabric revealed by the current repair work, together with 
consideration of the surviving documentary evidence. Very limited archaeological exca- 
vation might confirm the location of the north and south walls of the nave, and the west 

Fig. 10. Chancel north wall: a, detail of blocked door at west end of interior; b, detail of doorhead 
visible in external wall, c, plan of door opening from exterior (all detail now hidden beneath facing 

stone and plaster). 





• « • « 



• • • • 

• • « ♦ 













• n ' “ 

Fig. 1 1. Whorlton Old Holy Cross Church: suggested development of the structure. 

wall of the chantry chapel. More extensive work would, however, be required to elucidate 
the detailed structural history of the chancel and the west end of the nave. 

Phase i : Construction of nave and chancel 

The initial phases of nave and chancel were of one construction, linked by the chancel 
arch. The chancel arch, with star ornament on the external hood mould, suggests that 
the church was built during the latter part of the eleventh century. The decorated grave 
slab, discovered re-used, has lozenge decoration which is stylistically reminiscent of the 
decoration on the chancel arch hood mould, and may also be of late eleventh-century 

It has been suggested that the chancel was initially shorter (Lofthouse 1899, r 3 )- A 
shorter chancel would have been the usual twelfth-century practice in the area (pers. 
comm. Peter Ryder), and it may be that this was the case here. However, the chancel 


was extended at a date sufficiently early to use the short chamfer foundation course of 
the earliest church, rather than the longer style used for the south aisle addition. The 
matter can only be determined by excavation in the interior of the chancel. 

The north aisle with three bays may have been built in the first phase, or have 
been a fairly early addition, as suggested by Fowler (1902, 242). The archaeological 
investigations detailed here confirm that the south aisle was a later addition. 

Phase 2: Construction of the nave south aisle 

The east wall of the nave was extended to the south, a new south wall was constructed 
and the existing south wall pierced to create an arcade matching that on the north side. 

This major phase of work appears to have been undertaken at the beginning of the 
thirteenth century. The east end of the chancel north wall may have pierced around this 
time to allow access to a chapel or crypt which had a floor considerably lower than the 
nave or later chantry chapel. There is other evidence for a structure on the north side 
of the chancel at this date: doorways at ground and first floor level are let into the 
surviving northern stub of the nave east wall. These would seem to be what Fowler saw 
as evidence for the existence of a rood loft (1892, 227; 1902, 242), but they pass through 
the wall and presumably gave access to a structure on the north side of the chancel. It 
is not clear when these doors were blocked, but a possible occasion would be the construc- 
tion of the chantry chapel, when the chancel north wall door was blocked and access 
provided to the chapel through a door a little further east in the chancel north wall. 

It was probably also at or around this time that the east wall of the chancel was rebuilt, 
either on its original line or extended to the east, to include a narrow three-light window, 
the vertical bars of which had centres 0.51 m apart. 

Phase 3: Extension of the nave westwards 

The nave was extended by one bay to the west, probably after the construction of the 
north and south aisles. 

Early thirteenth-century in style, the westernmost bay of the north aisle is earlier than 
the corresponding bay in the south aisle, which is usually suggested (Page 1923, 316) to 
have been rebuilt at a later date. 

The east wall and eastern ends of the chancel north and south walls were probably 
rebuilt at this time, a suggestion which is supported by the fact that the chamfered plinth 
at the west end of the nave matches that provided at the east end of the chancel. The 
vertical bars and transom of the existing east window were re-used in a new and wider 
light with vertical bars which now had centres 0.87 m apart. Probably also in this phase 
the chancel walls were raised by two courses of stone which match those of the east wall; 
this, and widening of the east window, had the effect of pushing the window slightly 
off-centre to the north. 

The north wall of the chancel shows evidence of a yet further phase of raising, which 
was presumably reduced somewhat by Wyatt’s requirements for a slate roof, noted in 
Phase 8. 

Phase 4: Erection of the chantry chapel 

The doorway at the east end of the chancel north wall was blocked and any existing 
structure on the north side of the chancel was demolished or altered to encompass a 
chapel, referred to in the early nineteenth century as the Lady Porch. The presence of 
a low earthwork mound running the length of the chancel, continuing over the site of 
the nave north aisle, suggests that the chapel extended along the length of the chancel 
north wall. The substantial size of the structure compared with the adjoining chancel is 



brought out in a note from the vicar in connection with repairs proposed, and probably 
undertaken, in 1810, detailed under Phase 7, below: I have long expected ye roof of ye 
Lady Porch as it is called, which is nearly half, or at least two-fifths of ye chancel, to fall 
in.’ Wyatt’s specification of works required for the demolition of the chapel in 1875 
referred to two two-light windows, presumably in the north wall, and a three-light window 
in the east wall (nyro zjx 7/ 180/ 16). The larger window and one of the small ones is 
built into the south wall of the chancel of the church he designed for Swainby, while 
part of a two-light window in the north wall is also old fabric. 

This construction episode is assigned to the fifteenth century. If it had not already 
been blocked, the surviving Norman window in the chancel north wall was perhaps 
infilled at this time. This phase would have represented the greatest extent of the church, 
although some diminution of resources is suggested by the re-use of the eleventh-century 
grave slab in the chapel foundation. 

Phase 5: Demolition of the south aisle 

The existing south wall of the nave was demolished and the arcades were infilled. 

This took place in the fifteenth century, and may have been directly associated with 
the construction of the tower. It is worth noting that the south arcade arches stand 
somewhat higher than those of the north arcade. Lofthouse suggested that these had 
been raised (1899, 13), and this is supported by the fact that their heads now match in 
height the heads of the later fifteenth-century west bay. The operation could only have 
taken place before the tower was built, as its fabric surrounds the arcade remains. 
Interestingly, Murrays Handbook states [some 50 years ago] ‘The piers were re-built, but 
less high than before, and hence the difference in the height of the arches on either side 5 
(1882, 214). This seems inherently unlikely, since Murrays is referring to the demolition 
of the north wall: its consolidation on the line of the arcade would hardly have been 
preceded by the remodelling of piers and arches which were to be hidden. 

A dated shield attests the reconstruction, around 1593, of the eastern upper part of 
the chancel south wall and the insertion of a new, square-headed, window. 

In 1722 the upper part of the tower was repaired and a new roof provided which 
incorporated stonework from the north gable of the Meynell tomb (Fowler 1902, 247). 

Phase 6 : Construction of the tower 

A tower was constructed against the third bay in the former south arcade of the nave, 
probably also in the fifteenth century. This served as an entrance porch and may have 
replaced one set against the demolished south wall. 

The absence of roof scars on the east and west sides of the tower shows the south aisle 
did not exist when it was constructed, probably also in the fifteenth century. The incorpor- 
ation of fragments of grave slabs in the tower masonry echoes the re-use of the early 
grave slab in the foundation of the chantry chapel and suggests that building resources 
were limited. 

Phase 77 Demolition of the north aisle 

According to Murrays Handbook ‘the north aisle, and the adjoining piers, fell some 50 
years ago’ (1882, 214); however, the nineteenth-century directories were slow to update 
topographic and historical information and earlier editions use the same form of words, 
placing the destruction probably within the first quarter of the century. The absence of 
graves in this area may reflect unwillingness to place burials in this area (Fowler 1902, 
242), but it also supports a relatively late destruction date for the north aisle. Graves are 
also absent from the site of the chantry chapel, which is known to have survived until 


relatively recently, while, by contrast, the site of the former south aisle has a concentration 
of headstones. 

In 1810 a faculty was drawn up to allow the renewal of the church roof and to rebuild 
the north side of the church and to rebuild the west end 1 1 feet inside the then existing 
line (nyro zjx 7/61/27), effectively reducing the nave to its twelfth-century length. It is 
not clear that this relates to the collapse or demolition of the north wall of the church, 
but this seems likely, since the elapse of a fair amount of time would have been needed 
for the north aisle arcade to be ‘discovered’ during the alterations of 1875 — although, 
as noted below (Appendix), the embedded arcading can be clearly seen in a sole surviving 
pre-1875 photograph. 

The parochial accounts indicate that the churchyard wall was built at this time, 
probably replacing a bank and hedge. 

Phase 8: Removal of the arcade infilling, demolition of chantry chapel, repair of the chancel 

Decline of the church continued, apparently matching the decline in support of the 
established Church, underlined in a 1875 letter from the vicar to the Ailesbury Estate: 
‘Things may be better perhaps, when the church stands in the village, but at present the 
Chapels have it all their own way and one feels that matters are very hopeless’ (nyro 
zjx 7/ 180/ 4). 

The conversion of the chancel into a mortuary chapel was initially intended to be 
accompanied by the demolition of the whole of the nave and its attached tower. The 
realisation that the nave walls contained the arcading for the former aisles brought about 
a change of plan, and, instead, the infilling of the arcades was removed, the walls above 
were capped and repairs undertaken to the tower (see Appendix). The south aisle arcade 
was topped by the heads of three-light and two-light windows, formerly let into the 
blocking of the arcade below, as seen in a photograph taken before the remodelling of 
1875 (Hartley 1978, 4). 

The chantry chapel was demolished, however, according to plan. Windows in its north 
side, evidenced by fragments of glass in the wall robber trench, were required to be 
placed in the chancel of the new church in Swainby (nyro zjx 7/ 180/ 16). The entrance 
to the chapel from the chancel was blocked and a new buttress constructed where the 
chapel had been removed at the east corner of the chancel north wall. The chancel north 
wall was reconstructed around the Meynell monument and a new wall built inside the 
west wall of the nave. 

According to Wyatt’s specifications, the chancel north and south walls were reduced, 
and the east end raised, to permit the construction of a tiled roof (zjx 7/ 180/ 23). 

The path from the western end of the nave was built as part of the reconstruction 
works specified in 1875. (ZJX 7/ 180/ 19). The path lined with yew trees which leads 
from the road to the north to the west end of the nave was probably also established at 
this time. 

In 1891 the tower was re-roofed, the west gable over the chancel arch reconstructed, 
and an extended buttress built against the north side of the chancel arch (Fowler 1902, 


The churchyard was extended to the west in 1907, and again in 1977 (Hartley 1978, 13). 

A few finds were made during the course of the excavation of the drain trenches, the 
most notable being a decorated grave cover of later eleventh-century date. The grave 
cover is now in the chancel, while the other finds detailed below are in the care of the 
Parochial Church Council. 



Roof tile 

Part of a rectangular roof tile, original dimensions unknown but from 8—17 mm thick, 
with a single hole drilled for fixing. Fine sandstone, probably from the nearby hills. 

Sculptured stone grave slab by Peter Ryder 

Two joining parts of a substantial piece of sculptured stonework, of local sandstone, 
formed part of the foundation course of the north wall of the chantry chapel (Figs. 12 
and 13). Decorated with a relief design, the central shaft is flanked by a broad chevron 
with an incised medial line, within a raised border. Damage at the ends obscures how 
the design was finished, but it does not seem that there was a conventional cross head. 

A number of parallels can be cited: there is a small slab at Christ Church, Westerdale, 
with a similar but not identical pattern. A full size one lying in the churchyard at Kildale 
bears an incised pattern of a cross with a stylised head, flanked by a running lozenge 
pattern. There are other examples in Teesdale: slabs in the church porches at Gainford 
and Forcett both show a combination of chevron and lozenge patterns, and another, now 
lost, was for some years in the castle at Barnard Castle. At High Coniscliffe a very 
interesting small slab has three carved panels, one with a cross shaft flanked by a chevron 
exactly as on the Whorlton slab, one with a pair of shears, and a third with interlace 
very much in the pre-Conquest tradition. In Cumbria a very similar running chevron 
pattern can be seen on a slab at Cross Canonby. For the Barnard Castle, High Coniscliffe 
and Gainford stones see Ryder 1985. 

This is a typical slab of what has been termed the Saxo-Norman overlap; running 
chevron pattern might be seen as a dimly remembered derivant of the interlace on earlier 
stones, and also as a precursor of the running foliate or scroll patterns on later medieval 
cross slabs such as those from Bolton on Swale, Ellerton Priory, Middleton Tyas and 
Scruton (Ryder 1986). All these stones are probably of later eleventh- or even twelfth- 
century date: there is evidence that pre-Conquest influences, in both architectural and 
monumental sculpture, persisted for a generation or more beyond the political changes 
of 1066. 


Six fragments of window glass were recovered from the robber trench of the chantry 
north wall in its centre section. Four of the pieces have iridescent surfaces which are 
flaking heavily, while two are less decomposed. These appear to be clear glass. 


Strip of lead bent to bind three other pieces, the binding piece being the largest, 130 mm 
long, average width 43 mm and varying from 2 to 4 mm thick. Presumably former roofing 
material. From drainage trench on south side of chancel. 

Late or post-medieval pottery 

Rim sherd of a plate, plain exterior with buff-orange surface, interior with greenish tinged 
clear glaze over a buff-pink surface. Applied red clay decoration on the rim. 

Two sherds of the base of a pan, surfaces and fabric brownish orange, the interior 
clear-glazed. The fabric has quartz sand grits and micaceous dust. 

The pan could be of relatively recent date, perhaps even nineteenth century, and thus 
potentially from a number of local or regional production sites, the plate is of late sixteenth 
or early seventeenth-century style and is similar to the products of kilns known from 
Osmotherley (Sherlock 1990, 94). All the pottery is from the drainage trench along the 
western part of the south chancel wall. 



;• ; v.v ■ 





Fig- 12. Late eleventh-century grave cover from 
foundation of chantry chapel north wall. 



Fig. 13. Whorlton Old Holy Gross church: Grave cover found 
during drain excavation, 1997. 

Recent pottery 

Parts of two salt-glazed jars, one 130 mm high, 90 mm in diameter, with corrugated 
external surface, the other 65 mm tall, 58 mm in diameter, a miniature of the first. These 
are probably ink jars of nineteenth- or early twentieth-century date, from excavations 
along the north wall of the chancel. 

Part of a tile, or brick, reddish-orange fabric with micaceous clays, from excavations 
along the north wall of the chancel. 

Human bones 

During June and July 1996 trenches for French drains were excavated around the south, 
east and north walls of the chancel, with further trenches leading to soakaways to the 
north and south of the chancel. The trenches extended to a depth of around 60 cm below 
present ground surface at the west end of the chancel, reducing to an average of 40 cm 



at the east end. The soakaway trench on the north side was therefore 60 cm deep at 
most, while that on the south no more than 40 cm. No in situ burials were disturbed 
during this excavation work, but a number of individual bones and bone fragments were 
recovered during the digging. Findspots were mainly restricted to the area of the broken 
stub of the south-east corner of the nave and the drain trench extending south from the 
south-east corner of the chancel. Few bones were discovered along the course of the 
trench around the chancel, and these were mostly at the east end. No bones were 
recovered from the drainage trench leading to the soakaway on the north side of the 

The bone assemblage is too fragmentary and disjointed (literally) to merit specialist 
examination and they have been reburied just outside the presumed location of the north 
wall of the nave. 


The co-operation of the building contractor, Peter Martin of York, and his team is gratefully 
acknowledged. The archaeological interpretation has benehtted from the keen enthusiasm of Carol 
and Robin Cook, Joan Hartley, and the vicar, John Ford. Richard Bailey, Lawrence Butler, and 
the late Jim Lang commented on the cross slab. I am grateful to Peter Ryder for additional 
comment on the development of the church and for information on the cross slab and the architec- 
tural fragments incorporated in the tower, and should like to thank Richard Harper for his 
assistance with information on nineteenth-century architects. 


J. C. Atkinson 1993 History of Cleveland Ancient and Modern , 2. J. C. Fowler 1892 Whorlton-in-Cleveland, The 
Architect , 7th October 1892, 226-27. 

J. C. Fowler 1902 Whorlton in Cleveland, Proc. Cleveland Naturalists Field Club , 1, 234—49. 

J. C. Fowler 1909 Roman remains at Whorlton, Proc. Cleveland Naturalists Field Club , 2, 208. 

J. C. Fowler 1909a The Ancient Saxon Parish of Whorlton-in-Cleveland (Middlesbrough). 

A. C. Fryer 1909 Wooden monumental effigies in England and Wales, Archaeologia, 61, 487—552. 

F. Elgee 1929 Archaeological excavations for 1927: Whorlton, Proc. Cleveland Naturalists Field Club , 4, 31-32. 
J. Graves 1808 Tie History of Cleveland (Carlisle). 

J. Hartley 1978 The Story of JWhorlton Old Church (Swainby). 

R. Lofthouse 1899 Some account of the remains of Norman architecture in Cleveland churches, Proc. Cleveland 
Naturalists Field Club i 8 g 6 , i 8 gy and i 8 g 8 , 13-18. 

Murrays 1882 Murrays Handbook for Travellers in Yorkshire , 3rd edn. 

J. W. Ord 1 846 Tie History and Antiquities of Cleveland. 

W. Page 1923 Victoria History of the Counties of England: Yorkshire North Riding , 2. 

N. Pevsner 1966 The Buildings of England: Yorkshire, The North Riding. 

RCHM 1990 Whorlton Castle, Holy Cross Church, Whorlton Village and environs: notes accompanying earthwork survey 
(unpublished survey report compiled about 1990). 

P. F. Ryder 1 985 The Medieval Cross Slab Grave Cover in County Durham , Architectural and Archaeological Society 
of Durham and Northumberland Research Report, 1 (Durham). 

P. F. Ryder 1986 Four medieval cross slabs from North Yorkshire, Yorks. Archaeol. Journ., 58, 33-36. 

J. M. Robinson 1979 The Wyatts: An Architectural Dynasty. 

W. Sherlock 1990 The pottery, in D Heslop and A Aberg, Excavations at Tollcsby, Cleveland, 1972 and 
1974, in B E Vyner (ed) Medieval Rural Settlement in North-East England, 88 -99, Architectural and Archaeological 
Society of Durham and Northumberland Research Report, 2 (Durham). 



Further information on the structure of Whorlton church is contained in the Ailesbury 
Estate Papers (North Yorkshire Record office), transcriptions of parts of which have been 
kindly provided byjoan Hartley. The Ailesbury estate commissioned the prolific architect, 



Thomas Henry Wyatt (1807 1880), to design the new church of Swainby and, apparently 
at the same time, to draw up the specification for the remodelling of Whorlton church 
so that the chancel could be put into good enough state to continue in use as a mortuary 
chapel. The need for a new church was brought about not just by the poor state of the 
old structure, but because the settlement at Whorlton had become increasing depopulated 
and non-conformist chapels were serving the needs of a community which was by now 
centred in Swainby, 0.5 km distant. The retention of the old church was required not 
just for sentimental reasons, but because the maintenance of its churchyard considerably 
reduced the amount of land needed for the new church. It was thus a remarkable 
combination of factors which thus led to the construction of a new church and the 
survival of a large part of the old one. Although prolific, Wyatt was a competent rather 
than a great architect whose large practice had designed a considerable number of new 
churches as well as undertaking many remodelling contracts (Robinson 1979, 218-26): 
the commission to build Swainby church came late in his professional life. 

The correspondence throws interesting light on the architect’s interest in the architec- 
tural history of the old church and the development of the remodelling scheme following 
the discovery of the nave arcading embedded in the later walls. There is also information, 
mostly incidental, on the then surviving chantry chapel. Interesting sidelights are thrown 
on the developing relationship between the architect and his client, and on the dealing 
between the estate and local contractors. It would seem that the vicar was more interested 
in the new church than the old, in that the photographic record suggested by Wyatt 
seems never to have been undertaken, while Canon Atkinson, the noted local antiquarian, 
was informed of the remodelling that led to the discovery of the old arcading only after 
the event. 

Letter from Revd. Wm Deason to Lord Ailesbury 3 s agent, 28.2.18 10 

The 1810 faculty to allow the renewal of the church roof and to rebuild the north side 
of the church and to rebuild the west end 1 1 ft inside the then existing line (nyro zjx 
7/61/27), is supported by this letter, which explains the work and requests permission 
to quarry stone from Lythe (presumable Live) Moor. 

As discussed above, this would appear to be the occasion on which the old north wall 
was demolished and the arcading encapsulated within a rebuilt north wall. 

Letter from Revd Arthur Cumming to T. Maughan at the Ailesbury Estate (zjx 7/ 180/4) 

I heard from Lord Ailesbury only a few weeks ago, telling me that he had decided on having Mr 
Wyatt as the architect ... he had not liked any of Mr Fowler Jones’ plans and ... he thought it 
would be best to have a London man. 

I shall indeed be glad when the new church is commenced, for I feel I can do but little in the 
parish until we have one. Things may be better perhaps, when the church stands in the village, 
but at present the Chapels have it all their own way and one feels that matters are very hopeless. 

Slaters Directory of Yorkshire (1873), lists Fowler Jones as an architect with a practice at 
3 Low Ousegate, York. Whorlton was a relatively unusual north of England commission 
for Wyatt, an architect whose work is concentrated in the West Country and Wales, and 
no doubt derived from his extensive social connections (Robinson 1979, 218). 

Letter from Lord Ailesbury to T. Maughan, y.y. 1875 (zjx 7/ 180/5) 

With this I return a plan of Whorlton village ... will help us to make the first tracing of the ground 
for the proposed new church. I understand it is proposed to reserve the ground near the present 
old church as a cemetery leaving a portion of the old church (probably the chancel) as a mortuary 



chapel. If such should be the case the land about to be conveyed for the new church need not be 
much ... 

Letter from T. H. Wyatt to T. Maughan, 3.4.1875 (zjx 7/ 180/6) 

I have been requested by Lord Ailesbury to consult you as to the best way of dealing with the old 
church at Whorlton, taking it down and removing such of the old materials as are available again 
to the new site near the bridge ... 

The lead is valuable and I think the best way of disposing with that would be to advertise it to be 
sold by tender and apply to plumbers in Middlesbrough or Stockton for offers, the purchasers 
taking it off and removing it at their own cost and risk. 

The bells should be preserved — Lord Ailesbury thought that Robert Nelson and James Temple 
might give a joint tender for taking down the tower, nave and south aisle and perhaps the north 
(chancel arch and chapel) leaving the existing chancel and the old Norman arch as a mortuary 
chapel. ... We thought it very desirable that Robert Nelson (as mason) should be appointed with 
Temple in this contract as he would know what stones would be worth moving and how to take 
them down ... 

Would these two be competent to give a contract for building the shell of the church having once 
done similar work elsewhere? 

The question of the value of the lead, and how best to dispose of it, is raised on several 
occasions: it would seem that Wyatt’s advice was not fully taken. The initial intention to 
take down the tower was reversed following the discovery of the former arcading encapsu- 
lated within the surviving nave walls. Nelson builders are still operating in Swainby. 

Letter from S. A. Croft and Sons, Middleham, to Air T. Maughan, April 1875 (zjx 7/ 180/ 7) 

We have carefully examined the old lead on Swainby church and will give 183.0.0, this includes 
taking off and carriage. 

It is not clear why an approach seems to have been made to Croft at Middleham, 
which is considerably more distant than Middlesbrough or Stockton, but there may well 
have been a reluctance to deal with the developing industrial towns. 

Letter from T. H. Wyatt to T. Maughan, 4.5.1875 (zjx 7/ 180/8) 

I saw Lord Ailesbury yesterday and he thought it would be a good plan to get an estimate from 
R. Nelson and J. Temple for taking down the old church and carting such of the old materials to 
the new site as would be useful in the new church. ... I would send a short description of what I 
think it would be well to move ... 

Lord Ailesbury seemed to think that the comment given by the archbishop in his letter to Mr 
Cumming was quite sufficient to justify our pulling down without wasting money on a faculty. 

I suggested in my letter to Lord Ailesbury that before pulling down I thought there ought to be 
two or three good photographs taken of the old church. This would be right and interesting both 
from an antiquarian and historical point of view. He quite concurred. Is there anyone in the 
district (nearer than York) who could do this well? 

Wyatt was to return to the importance of acquiring a photographic record in his 
following letter, but this does not seem to have been done, as J. C. Fowler, vicar of 
Whorlton from 1890 until 1917, a historian and leading member of the Cleveland 
Naturalists Field Club, did not publish any pre-1877 views of the church in his note on 
the church (1892) or his survey of the parish (1909a). However, a photograph of the 
church from the south-east survives (published in Hartley 1978, 4) on a carte de visite 
produced by a Redcar photographer who is listed in local directories from 1865, and 
may have been in business somewhat earlier. In this the blocked arcading can clearly be 



seen, so the suspicion must be that the photograph was taken at an early stage of the 
re-modelling, probably during September 1875: if earlier it would be hard to explain 
how the arcading came as a discovery which was to change the course of the 
consolidation work. 

Letter from T. H. Wyatt to T. Maughan , 14.5.1875 (zjx 7/ 180/ 13) 

Herewith I send you a general specification applying to the removal of the old church. Will you 
be good enough to look it over and make any additional and alterations you think desirable and 
then forward it to Nelson and Temple ... It should be clearly understood that they take down such 
old stone and paving as Nelson (who is a mason and should know what stone will work again) 
believes to be useful and worth the carriage. I have added a PS as to the removal of any grave 
stones which are in the way of pulling down and should be replaced afterwards. ... It would be 
well worthwhile to have very good photos taken for I have no doubt that the parishioners would 
like some, and I have seen some of Mr Austin Clarke’s of Ripon that are very good. 

Specification of works required to be done in taking down the greater part of the present 
church and removing the materials in preparation for the building of a new church in a 
more accessible site, according to the directions of Thomas Henry Wyatt, architect. 

London, May 1875 ( Z J X 7/180/16) 

The following instructions apply to the several parts of the building except the chancel, this to 
remain for a mortuary chapel. Carefully strip off the old lead on the roofs and roll it so as to be 
conveniently removed, cart away as directed. 

Take off all the rafters and other timbers of roof parts of the building and remove from the site. 
None will be considered fit for use in the new church. Form a rough but strongly boarded partition 
on the west side of chancel arch with a door for access with a proper lock and key. Such of the 
old rafters as suitable, to be used and the panelling of old pews may be used to cover it so as not 
to require any new materials. Carefully lower the present bells and remove to a place of safety as 
will be directed. The wheels, framing and tackle need not be preserved. Clear out all the old 
fittings of every kind and dispose according to directions. 

The bowl of the ancient font to be preserved and placed in safety either inside the chancel or 

Take down all the monuments in the church or upon the walls and carefully refix them in 
the chancel. 

Take up any gravestones or ledgers now in the pavement and preserve or relay in the same position. 
No memorials of any kind to be removed from the churchyard. 

Take out all glazing, saddlebars etc and deposit as directed. 

In pulling down the walls the following windows are to be taken out, stone by stone, and marked 
or numbered so that they may be rebuilt in the new church exactly as at present they exist, viz: 
Two decorated windows in south wall of chancel, the 3-light east windows of north chancel 
aisle and two 2-light windows of early date in the side wall. 

The whole of the walls to be taken down to a level 6' above the ground line (inside the building), 
the materials to be cleaned and sorted, such of them as are suitable for re-use in the new church 
to be removed from there to the intended site and stacked in convenient positions thereon. In 
cleaning off old mortar etc it is not intended that the old weathered face should be removed. All 
the rubbish and rubble to be carted away. No turfing or planting to be included in the estimate. 
If in pulling down any moulded stones or other features of interest are discovered, they are to be 
carefully kept apart, and if any coins, fragments of painted glass or tiles are found they are to be 
handed over to the rector. 

A new rough stone wall 15' thick in mortar is to be built round a part of the monument on the 
north side of the chancel which projects into the aisle. The wall to be carried up to sufficient 
height and to have a lean-to roof of old rafters and stout boarding or slates to exclude the weather 
until it is decided how the monument shall be permanently enclosed. 



The openings in south wall of chancel caused by the removal of two windows to be carefully built 
up, faced outside and plastered inside. Any gravestone moved must be reset in its proper position. 
The work to be completed on or before the day of 1875. 

As noted above, the site of the chantry chapel is indicated by a low earthwork which 
extends westwards along the area of the former north aisle. This suggests that Wyatt’s 
instructions were intended to bring the area of the chantry chapel to the same state as 
the adjoining site of the north aisle. 

There appears to have been a change of heart about the two decorated windows in 
the south wall of the chancel, as they still remain. 

Letter from R. Nelson to T. Maughan, 24.3.1373 (zjx 7/180/ 13) 

I, Robert Nelson, Builder, Swainby, near Northallerton, do hereby engage to do the work named 
in the specifications for pulling down the old church at Whorlton, carting away the materials etc 
... for the sum of two hundred and fifty pounds: the work to be completed in a reasonable time. 

Nelson’s quotation seems to have been regarded as being on the high side by both 
architect and estate manager. 

Letter from R. Nelson to T. Maughan, 26.7.1873 (zjx 7/ 180/ 17) 

I have carefully considered your letter and in reply desire to state that if the specifications are to 
be strictly adhered to, as labour is very dear and men bad to treat with, I am afraid I should be 
a loser if I reduced the estimate. Leading is one of the greatest items in our calculation, and 
certainly there will be a great quantity of rubbish to remove: if this was deposited in some place 
near the old church it would make a deduction to my calculation. 

Another point in the specification which adds considerably to the estimate is the stones have to 
be carefully taken down and cleaned and some of the windows have to be taken out stone by 
stone and numbered, etc. Now if I was allowed to take them down to best advantage and not 
have to clean off the old lime which sometimes takes a great deal of time would also reduce 
the tender. 

At the same time I am willing to undertake the work to be done day by day and paid for 
accordingly. I have found considerable difficulty in coming to even an approximate estimate of 
this cost, but am agreeable to undertake the work and keep a careful account of the time, and if 
at the end of the work I saw that it did not equal my calculations I shall be willing to make every 
reasonable deduction. 

Nelson’s suggestion of finding a place near the old church where the rubbish might 
be deposited does not seem to have been taken up by the estate, although the nearby 
castle fish pond may well have been in Nelson’s mind. 

Letter from T. H. Wyatt to T. Maughan, 17.8.1873 (zjx 7/ 180/ 19) 

I saw Lord Ailesbury yesterday and promised him I would write to you as to Whorlton church 
and the best way of dealing with the old chancel so as to adapt it for the purpose of a mortuary 
chapel, for funeral services. 

I venture to think the simplest plan would be to pull down all the rest of the church except what 
is shewn on the sketch enclosed. I should (as you propose) put in a new open roof covered with 
slate and dispose of the lead to meet the expenses. 

I should wall up the three apertures A, B and C leaving the angles on the inside on the inside 
protruding (for archaeological interest). 

I should remove the present door from porch into church and refix it in the existing chancel arch, 
or rather under it at D, walling up on each side and I think the nicest way of approaching this 
chapel would be to form a broad path from the western boundary of the old nave, as without it 
I don’t think you would want my porch. 



I should then build a wall at E at the back of the old Meynell monument to protect it when the 
south chapel is taken down and I think it would be well to leave the portions marked F and G to 
ensure a good abutment for the Norman arch at D. 

With these works and such repair of glazing etc as might be necessary, and introducing a few of 
the old seats for mourners during the service, you would have a very sufficient mortuary chapel. 
Surely Nelson and some local carpenter would be able to give a fair estimate for so simple and 
straightforward a work as this, without calling in a stranger to do it. 

Then as regards the old lead on the existing church. The usual way is to invite tenders for it as it 
stands , taking all risk of weight and quality and carriage upon the purchaser and I venture to advise 
this course be adopted. There is too great a difference between Croft’s tenders £ i 83 os. o d. and 
Shepherd’s £132 5A o d. on a material of such value as lead, and B[?]’s tender of £20 a ton 
delivered at Stockton is too vague ... 

... I confess I think Nelson’s tender £255 I s high but that would depend very much on the quantity 
of stone he proposes to deliver on the site of new church available for our work ... 

If you don’t haul the old stone from the existing church to the new one I don’t know what you 
will do with the rubbish and debris from the old one. As regards the new church it will, I fear, 
never do to let Nelson contract for it, if as Lord Ailesbury says he can never have more than two 
or three masons working on it. We should none of us live to see it finished and I think you must 
seek tenders from some experienced and dependable builders, if you can think of three such men 
it would be better to apply to them for tenders instead of advertising. 

As regards laying the first stone and preparing for the ceremony and even getting in the foundations, 
Nelson could surely do that, and he ought to do it on your terms if he expects any more work. If 
Lord A approves his doing so I would send him down special instructions for that part of the work. 

The plan mentioned above does not appear to survive. The accounts show that the 
lead, in the end, went to Croft at Middleham. The tone of Maughan’s correspondence 
suggests that Wyatt’s quip would have been appreciated. Although the path up the old 
nave was constructed, Wyatt’s proposed porch was never built. 

Letter to T. H. Wyatt from T. Maughan, 4.10.1875 (zjx 7/180/22) 

Will you send Nelson plan of Whorlton mortuary chapel roof also design for doorway under 
Norman arch. Now that the old tower has to remain standing can you trust the Revd A. H. 
Gumming to have a door made from the old arch or window stones ... 

Nelson is busy with walling near monument and will soon be ready for roof. 

The central part of the south aisle arcade had been integrated with the tower when 
this was built; the decision to retain the arcading, to judge from the correspondence 
dates, consequent on work undertaken during September 1875, now required the tower 
to be retained. 

Letter to T. Maughan from T. H. Wyatt , , 5.10.1875 (zjx 7/ 180/23) 

As it will only involve the loss of one post in the day I prefer to send you the drawing for the roof 
over the chancel at Whorlton. ... If this roof is to be covered with slate instead of lead (as it very 
well might be) it would be necessary to take off some of the upper part of the side walls so as to 
get pitch enough for slate and this I think might be done with advantage to the walls; the ridge 
being kept at its present level so as to preserve the 'Sanctus’ bell turret — the gable of the east 
wall being altered so as to be parallel with the new roof and slightly above it. When I proposed 
to take down the tower I had intended to use the old doorway from porch into church as the new 
approach to the chancel under the Norman arch of chancel, and that is what I still think would 
be the best thing to do, for it will not be necessary now to have two doors in the old tower. I 
should remove the inner doorway of tower, build it into the new wall under chancel arch and 
then wall up carefully the old tower doorway ... I should be sorry to attempt anything in the shape 
of a modern Norman doorway under the old Norman arch! 

If a south door is wanted beyond that which now exists in south wall, there is the old little one 



between vestry and 'lumber room’ as it is called on plan. I should wall up the present one into 
vestry from chancel. 

The tower south doorway blocking contains a piece of clay pantile of nineteenth- 
century type. It is not clear where the Vestry and lumber room’ were located, but no 
new south door was constructed, while the existing south door was blocked. 

Letter fromj. Harker to T. Maughan, 8.10.1875 (zjx 7/180/24) 

We have got a drawing of the roof of the old church and it does not say what sort of wood or 
anythink about it I would be very much oblige is you could give me any information about it as 
we cannot dou any think untill we dou knaw somethink more. 

Letter from T. Maughan to J. Harker, g. 10. 1875 ( Z J X 7/180/25) 

The roof is to be made of best memel Red, clear of sap, dead knots and shakes. 

You had better do it as quickly as ever you can as the more activity you show the better chance 
you will have for the work on the new church. 

Letter from A. H. Cumming to Canon Atkinson, 6.10.1875 (no reference) 

Our old church is now a complete ruin, we have taken down a great part of it. We found some 
very nice arches walled up and thickly covered with plaster and whitewashed. We have opened 
these out so shall probably leave, as they are interesting, together with the tower, which is pictur- 
esque. The chancel is to be repaired so will be used for the burial service. The architects of our 
new church are not Messrs Armfield and Bottomley, but Mr T. H. Wyatt of London. We have 
already begun the foundations ... 

Frank Porter’s 1880 Directory of Stockton, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool lists Armfield and 
Bottomley as architects at 1 Zetland Road, Middlesbrough. It is not known what reaction 
the Canon had to the work at Whorlton Old Holy Cross church: his note on the church 
at Whorlton appears to have been written around 1872, but provides little information 
on the church structure (Atkinson 1993, 95). 

75 % 

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. yi, iggg 




By Paul Hughes 

Port facilities are known to have been constructed in prehistoric times . 1 During the 
Roman period real ports existed at both York and London among other places . 2 
Strengthened riverbanks for Viking shipping purposes have been unearthed at those 
places plus Dublin . 3 In Yorkshire and Lincolnshire survive jetties which can conceivably 
trace their origin back to the previous millennium. These jetties, which are known as 
staiths, are positively recorded from the fifteenth century continuously into the end of 
the twentieth century . 4 Staiths are the forerunners of the vast structures to which present 
shipping of the largest size tie up to and exchange their cargo with. 

The function of this paper is to describe some of the surviving records concerning 
those staiths which lie along the Humber estuary. The description is from the view of a 
practising Humber pilot rather than that of an historian. It is first necessary to describe 
the need for the dedicated structure which is a staith. Second are some details of how 
staiths were constructed; this principally manifests itself as a maintenance record. Pitifully 
scarce are stories which tell of the reason for the staiths, in other words what cargoes 
were moved across them. The concluding sections describe the final flowering of the 
different types of staiths. Here an attempt has been given to suggest the causes of their 

Staiths: A Port Type 

The Humber estuary, like many others, displays a wide variety of port types. A port is 
a harbour, a harbour is a safe place, where people can obtain access between ship and 
shore and where cargo can be loaded or discharged. Natural harbours occur at different 
places along the coast. Some of these may only permit of their availability at certain 
stages of the tide. Two opposite types of simple ports are anchorages and places where 
a ship can be beached. 

Beaching is to deliberately let the ship strand upon the shore during a falling tide. It 
uses the natural tidal range to get the ship in a working proximity to the shore. One of 
the Humber’s Dark Age ports Ravenser, Ravenser Odd 5 or Spurn Point used this type 
of facility. Its beaching place was as today, flat sand and only a short walk to the land 
above high water mark. The prehistoric boatyard at North Ferriby conversely used a 
steep sloping beach of chalk outcrop. Both the sand and chalk provide an amenable 
surface upon which to work. Inter-tidal areas where the surface is mud or other intractable 
material do not provide suitable places for successful beaching. 

L E. V. Wright, The North Ferriby Boats , National Maritime Museum Monograph No. 23 (1976), p. 31. 

2 - York Archaeological Trust, The Waterfronts of York (1988), p. 3. 

3 York Archaeological Trust, The Waterfronts of York (1988), p. 3. 

4 Durham University Library, Archives and Special Collections (DUL ASC), Church Commission 
Bishopric, vol. I, List of Linanciai and Audit Records of the Palatinate of Durham to 1649. 

5 - W. Brown, Yorkshire Inquisitions , vol. II, The Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series (YASRS) 
vol. XXIII (1898), pp. 1 12 13. 



Fig. i. Hull docks; drawn by N. Whitlock, engraved by W. J. Cooke, published by T. T. Hinton, 1829. 

Neither in themselves do anchorages provide access to dry land. They do make accept- 
able places for transshipment between different size craft. The Old Harbour (River Hull) 
was known for its ‘overside’ trade from the middle ages until shortly after the Second 
World War . 6 Direct evidence for transshipment at anchor in the Old Harbour is scarce, 
but ample opportunity exists nearby in the wider and deeper Humber of Hull Roads. A 
type of anchoring is used for discharging oil cargo at the Tetney Mono Buoy. Here the 
ship is moored to a buoy which is itself anchored to the bottom. A pipeline, which 
connects the shore and buoy, has a small floating extension which is in its turn connected 
to the ship. This port type, with the ship moored at one end and that end used for 
moving cargo with the shore, has a great similarity in its function to the staiths of the 
many rivers which cut through the lowland parts of the North German Plain. 

A staith is generally a small projection from the shore, with its surface above that of 
high water, to which the ship can be moored . 7 In that the ships are moored to these 
mostly at one end only there is the connection to Tetney. The staith then provides the 
function on the one hand of mooring the ship to shore. That function in itself lacks 
sufficient reason for the engineering edifice of the staith. The staith’s upper surface, 
between where it abuts with the ship and the ordinarily dry land, serves the function of 
a platform upon which cargo operations may be undertaken. These two functions are 
complementary with the one being less useful and difficult to sustain without the other. 
The staith, in its construction, protects the natural levee from erosion by human activity. 
At the same time it protects the hinterland from flooding; and herein lies part of the key 
to its very existence. 

6 - G. Jackson, The History and Archaeology of Ports (1983), p. 154. 

7 "This definition is my own. It does not agree with the OED. 



How Staiths Began 

The geological characteristic of the Vale of York is that it is completely flat. This is the 
result of the deposit left by Lake Humber during the last ice age some ten thousand years 
previous . 8 In its natural state the Vale has few dry places. Fortuitously some of these are 
the natural banks or levees of the rivers crossing the area. These small spots were the 
first places in the area to be inhabited and/ or developed — nowhere else could be 
because it was undrained bog , 9 the vestigial lakebed. In this circumstance then the first 
port problem is met. 

Communication in the area can be effected in time of great frost by walking over the 
frozen bog . 10 Without much doubt the method of normal linkage is by boat. Landing 
can be effected at suitable places at high water directly between boat and land in the 
dry season. In the wet season this cannot so reliably be done. Wherever and whenever 
the operation has to be done repetitiously, then good landings cannot be decently done 
and handling cargoes would exacerbate the problem. At any other state of the tide it is 
next to impossible to get up the muddy banks. Therefore some sort of permanent access 
between the dry land and the waterside has to be provided. This is not too difficult a 
problem, a vertical wooden ladder can be driven down into the riverbed and its head 
connected across the foreshore with a causeway. That is all that a simple staith is. 

There are, however, problems with constructing anything that sticks out into the river. 
The river flow in vicinity of the staith is increased because the aperture has been 
decreased. This becomes offset by increased deposition further on. Established rights 
such as a mill race or fish garths offer competition to the creation of anything new, such 
as a staith. Where a staith functions for all as a common-user berth, then this benefit 
can find its place in the community. Where a staith forms part of a flood defence barrier, 
then its upkeep by the community is for the well-being of all. 


Evidence of prehistoric port activity has to focus upon two or perhaps more chance finds. 
The North Ferriby boats and the Hasholme logboat have been well written up, the Brigg 
raft less well. These researches indicate that the interface level of water and land was 
lower then than now , 11 and thus any residual ports lie as deeply buried as those craft 
were. Clearly the wood working techniques had risen to have enabled port structures to 
be built but the boats in themselves do not indicate a need. It is a supposition that some 
timber scraps from the North Ferriby site of the second millennium bc are duck boards. 

Consideration of sea-level in relation to the land requires two elements: the absolute 
movement of the water surface to be resolved against the absolute movement of the land 
mass. The datum for a eustatic change in sea level would be the earth’s centre. An 
isostatic change in the land mass would produce a residual effect upon mean sea-level. 

Roman Period 

A continuing rise of sea-level during the Roman period is offered as an explanation for 
the early abandonment of their ports at Brough (Petuaria) and Faxfleet . 12 Against that 

8 - G. de Boer, Eastern Yorkshire: The Geographical Background to Early Settlement, The Fourth Viking 
Congress , ed. A. Small (1965), pp. 197 210. G. D. Gaunt, A Radiocarbon Date Relating to Lake Humber, 
Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society , vol. 40, pt II (1974), p. 195. 

9 J. D. Porteous, The Company Town of Goole (1968), p. 5. 

10 - J. Hamilton, The Manuscript in a Red Box (1903), p. 178; R. W. Unwin, The Aire and C 'alder Navigation, pt 2, 
p. 175; The Bradford Antiquary (1967). 

11 M. Millett and S. McGrail, The Archaeology of the Hasholme Logboat, The Archaeological Journal, vol. 
144 (1987), p. 146; for cargo timber p. 137, butchered meat 139, iron ore 148. 

12 J. Radley, Yorkshire Flooding (1970), p. 9. 



has to be offset the obvious difficulty of Ermine Street crossing the Humber and the 
undoubted success of the middle route north, west of the wet Vale of York via Gastleford. 
Despite that, there appear to be Roman jetty survivals in Hungate in York along the 
River Foss . 13 

It is during the Roman period that large-scale civil engineering of port features are 
reputed to have been at least begun. The Fossdyke was dug from the Wash to Fincoln 
and from Fincoln to the Trent at Torksey , 14 enabling the northern armies to be fed from 
the grain of East Anglia. 

The sophistication of Roman port operation shows in a stone inscription testifying to 
a pilot of the Sixth Fegion one Marcus Minucius Mudenus . 15 

Early English Staith Place-names 

A curious juxtaposition to the Roman pilot is found in the Domesday entry for Torksey . 16 
The imperial occupational status of the former appears to have a residual continuation 
with the pilots of this latter borough. The Torksey pilots were required to do their work 
on the king’s business down the Trent and up the Ouse to York . 17 

By Domesday the classic medieval meaning of staith as an early type of jetty seems to 
be set. The word ‘staith’ is plainly Viking. Its surviving distribution from Norfolk and 
Yorkshire, through the Midlands, to Cheshire and Somerset includes the Danelaw. There 
is a notable omission of any such words along the Thames. Here though are found a 
number of hithes (Greenhithe, Rotherhithe) which were being recorded as early as the 
eighth century . 18 This has an interest in that hithe is not recorded in other Teutonic 
languages. Hithe has a clear resonance with staith. A relative of hithe can be found along 
the Trent at Stockwith and in Yorkshire at Hive. 

The original Scandinavian words stather, staith and stede, however Anglicised, are 
ultimately connected with Latin statio . 19 This still means an anchorage, roadstead, bay 
or inlet and a modern lexicon goes back to Greek stasis. 

The Humber estuary staiths are recorded throughout the full length and breadth of 
the waterway. Most settlements next to a navigable part of the river have a staith. They 
are concentrated in: York, within the walls; Hull, also within the walls; and Howdenshire. 
Despite those concentrations, staiths are found along the system as far west as Wakefield 
and Ferrybridge and as south as Gainsborough. Ancillary evidence locates staiths to the 
north at Bubwith and to the east at Salt End. The fulsomeness of the description of staith 
distribution is dependent upon both the survival of records and upon the chance of those 
records receiving attention. Whilst etymological studies emphasise the certainty of pre- 
Norman staiths, archaeological proof is not so plentiful even though a good argument 
exists for one at Doncaster . 20 

The first element of Stafford is a derivation of staith . 21 Whilst recorded before the 
tenth century and the fact that it is so inland, it appears to be an early usage of the term. 

13 - York Archaeological Trust, The Waterfronts of York (1988), p. 14. 

14 - M. Winton, Lincolnshire History and Directory (1874), p. 4; J. Priestley, Historical Account of the Navigable 
Rivers and Canals (1831), pp. 294- 96. 

15 - Altar Stone, The Yorkshire Museum, York. RCHME Eburacum: Roman York (1962), p. 1 16b. 

16 - Domesday Book 1086 , Phillimore edn (1986), f. 3368 337a. 

17 - D. Whitelock, The Beginnings of English Society, The Pelican History of England, vol. 2, p. 65. 

18 - Compact Oxford English Dictionary (1991), Hithe. 

19 - A. H. Smith, English Place-Name Elements pt II, vol. XXVI (1956), p. 147. 

20 - M. S. Parker, Some Notes on the Pre-Norman History of Doncaster, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal (YAJ), 
vol. 59 (1987), pp. 29-43. 

2L E. Ekwall, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names (i960), p. 435. 



The Middle Ages 

As can be expected, staith records after the Conquest become more frequent. Burton 
Stather is recorded in 1 208 and a common-user berth is evident nearby, at Flixborough 
Stather in 1431. The earliest indications of staiths are simply defended river banks. By 
the time they become pieces of the shore jutting out into the river then they can not so 
easily be distinguished from jetties, wharves or quays. Jetty is found in Cornwall at St 
Ives in 1478 and on the Ouse at Hook in 1637 where it is synonymed with staith. As 
might be expected, with something so clearly Old English as wharf, it is found in 
Domesday at Wharton, in Lincolnshire. A drawing on a map of 1403 depicts a quay at 
Swinefleet. An exceptionally early usage of the word quay is found locally on the Humber 
in 1 300. 22 

The quickening pace of industrial evolution after 1066 brought the first sloughing off 
of staith usage. At first staiths were principal places for ships’ goods where hinterland 
interfaced with entrepot. Without any consideration of siltation, ships were becoming 
bigger and natural economics sent the bigger ships to the bigger (deeper) staiths. 
Therefore, while some staiths stayed in the seagoing trade others were relegated to the 
role of a feeder service. Until the advent of canals this role diversification was probably 
mutually efficient. It was not until the artificial constraint of custom checking was imposed 
that the smaller staiths were denied their natural access to wider markets. 

Hull Staiths 

A number of staiths are found in the City of Hull. They are on the west side of the river 
Hull. The river formerly had its western bank where now is to be found High Street. 23 
The surviving manuscripts refer, in the first instance, to properties on the west or town 
side of High Street. To these properties came ships — up the river Hull. These berths 
were known from their earliest records right up to the present time as staiths. However, 
the very name High Street has led to a consideration of its original form possibly being 
the street of hithes. The street was recorded in the middle ages as Hull Street. 

In time, better and ever better berths were built on to the original properties. This 
signifies encroachment upon the river rather than a shift of the river. This eastward 
extension into the river is presently halted at a continuous line of wooden berths, some 
varying a hundred feet from High Street. These constructions were generally split off 
from the original properties. 24 

Early records of these staiths have been studied by Dr R. Horrox. They figure in a 
plan of medieval properties of Hull, with each property numbered. Conveniently these 
numbers begin, running from north to south, along the Hull west bank. The records 
scantily indicate three things: the people involved, the rents involved and some linear 
dimensions of the staiths and associated areas. 

Property number 4 is Salthouse Lane Staith. A town lease of July 28th 1609 gave 
Christopher Maxwell a bricklayer the right to construct an access. This was to be 1 1 ft 
wide between properties to either side north and south, and 8 ft from the ground upward, 
and in length 20 ft. Reserving to the Mayor and Burgesses space 6 ft broad and 8 ft high 
for a door or other passage to the staith. The rent, for eighty years, at 1 2 d. ‘The messuage 
was built by 1622 and continued to be leased by the town until 1691, when it was sold 

22 W. Brown, Yorkshire Inquisitions , vol. Ill, YASRS, vol. XXXI (1902), p. 137. 

23 Hull by B. S. Ayers in Waterfront Archaeology , (ed. G. Milne), Council for British Archaeology Research 
Report 41 (1981), p. 126. 

24 - R. Horrox, Selected Rentals and Accounts of Medieval Hull 1293-1528, YASRS, vol. GXLI (1983), p. 1. 



to Sarah Dring, widow; and described as a messuage or tenement over the entrance to 
Salthouse Lane Staith’. 25 

Property number 19 is Bishop Staith. 

Sep 20th 1565. Luke, son and heir of Henry Thurscross, came before the city council concerning 
Bishop staith. The messuage of the said Luke lay to the north of the staith and that of John 
Thornton to the south. The staith is to be kept in repair at the town’s expense and Thurscross 
quitclaims all rights to it. 26 

Property 29 is Scale Lane Staith. The earliest document referring to it is a rental of 
1347 and uses a different name. 

Thomas de Flynton holds one plot; frontage 1 1 J ft; paying yv 4 d. to the King. He also holds half 
a chamber over Aldburgh staith immediately south of his plot for which he pays 1 2 d. to the church. 
(The other half follows). Master John de Barton holds one tenement; frontage 43 ft; pays 12 d. to 
the King. He also holds half a chamber over the staith for which he pays 12 d. to the church. 27 

A separate property, number 28, immediately to the north in 1540/41 describes it as 
Daniel staith; a tenement of Sir John Eland for 8u 8 d. 

John Rotten Herring of Welwick owned an unnamed property, number 39. 

Sep 1 2th 1452. Charterhouse lease to Roland Derwentwater, merchant, of one tenement with a 
lane and staith adjoining, 70 years @ 6ou 28 

Strangely it is a very early record of property 46 which preserves the extant name of 
Church Lane Staith. 

r 347, William de la Pole senior holds one tenement south of Church Lane staith; High Street 
frontage 56 ft; pays 26s. 8 d. to the king. 29 

Next to it is property 45 which, using the name King’s Staith, most likely indicates a 
common-user berth. 

Nov 14th 1439. John Sleford of Beverley to William Saunderson and John Hedon of Hull, chap- 
lains, a messuage: tenement late of Roger del Kerr, Kingstaith, Hull Street, with a chamber over 
the said staith. 30 

Jan 16th 1456. The town ordered Haynson to build and repair the staith of his tenement, in which 
Etton lives, as c lez Stakes’ now and of old situated in the water of Hull ... 1540/41 The aldermen 
of Our Lady’s Guild, for tenements at the Kingstaith where John Car’s wife lives 20 s. ... 1552 
Mr Dalton junior, a tenement occupied by Thomas Elwood ... 1591/92 Mr Thomas Dalton, a 
tenement in which he lives ... 1626 Leonard Scott, land late of Thomas Dalton The Occupiers of 
the land paid id. p.a. to the town for building which the town had permitted over the staith and 
this appears in the town rentals for the first time in 1564. 31 

Property 47 is towards the Humber end of the Hull river and begins to indicate a 
service area. On Dec 31st 1544 a merchant and two mariners lived here. One of the 
mariners, Thomas Petit, is very likely to have been a pilot. 32 

25 - R. Horrox, The Changing Plan of Hull (CPH) i2go 16 go (1978), p. 15. 

26 - R. Horrox, CPH i2go- 1650 (1978), p. 31. 

27 R. Horrox, CPH 1 200-16 70 (1978), pp. 34- 33. 

28 - R. Horrox, CPH i2go-i6go (1978), p. 41. 

29 - R. Horrox, CPH i2go 16 go (1978), p. 46. 

30 R. Horrox, CPH i2go 16 go (1978), p. 45. 

3L R. Horrox, CPH i2go i6go (1978), p. 48. 

32 Thomas Petyt, The Rutter of the See, 18th March MDXXXVI, Lincoln’s Inn Library. 



Aug 24th 1560. Shaw to John Gregory, yeoman, lease of a tenement or house with a crane and 
staith at the back in High Street: tenement occupied by Robert Nailler, mariner S; tenement 
occupied by Thomas Petit N. 33 

The De la Poles were important Hull people who had property number 60. 

Jan 9th 1391 ... a staith and a crane on the staith ... memorandum that the tenement with the 
crane and staith measures 21 yds 1 ft on its Hull Street frontage and 18 yds on its river frontage. 34 

Rotten Herring Staith is property 7 1 . 

Property 72 was Horse Staith and its name may have a continuing preservation further 
south at the present junction of Hull and Humber at the Horsewash. 

July 14th 1316 ... six shops and a staith in Hull Street ... the staith lies between the staithes of... 
and measure 60 ft in length ... the staith is opposite the shops ... and another piece of land with 
wharfage, 60 ft long ... Allerton’s land on the quay. October 22nd 1632 ... three chambers one 
above the other built over a room used for laying sand in which lies over the Horse staith and ... 
1675, these three chambers were over a room known as the chain house and belonges to the 
building known as the South End tower ... the shed over the windlass lately used for the said chain. 35 

This last entry is full of interest. Whilst preserving usage of the word staith, it introduces 
both quay and wharf. The shops are workshops. The chain was used for a dual purpose 
of regulating vessels’ entry and exit to the harbour as well as keeping marauders at bay. 

The records of Hull staiths are quite full for the medieval period and begin to dwindle 
away after the early modern period. That any record of them at all survives can perhaps 
be discerned by considering that some very precise measurements are given. These 
properties are the heart of the town and port. Where they occur along the inside of a 
river bend then, as they extend out into the river, their combined frontage to that river 
will diminish as a mathematical certainty. Hence arises cause for a squabble and a 
determination of who owns which piece, or has a claim to it. That these staiths were 
recognised as being so very important can be seen in the way that they figure in ancient 

In 1331 the Burgesses were to be free of duty when anchoring their ships in the river. 36 
By 1334 s7 they were granted quayage, or wharfage rights. An important grant was made 
to the Burgesses on 4th June 1382 38 enabling, if not encouraging them, to build houses, 
quays and staiths out into the midstream. A grant of 25th June 1443 39 confirms one of 
the original functions of staiths, granting the town rights in their fight against flooding. 
Two years later, 40 when the official town boundary was enlarged with the addition of 
the hinterland, the townsfolk were enabled to elect one of their own to be the King’s 
Admiral of the Humber. Clearly this was to lead into conflict with York but Hull did 
ultimately, and with little resistance, win. Crucially this charter gave the citizens the 
indivisible right to collect port dues. 41 

The general advancement of regulation in the Middle Ages gave all the rights to the 
few established ports such as Hull. These rights made it difficult for any ports higher up 
the estuary to have a separate business life. Those that did not wither were confined to 

33 R. Horrox, CPH i2go-i6go (1978), p. 48. 

34 R. Horrox, CPH i2go-i6go (1978), p. 53. 

35 R. Horrox, CPH i2go-i6go (1978), pp. 58-61. 

36 Hull Record Office (HRO), BRC 6. 

37 HRO, BRC 7. 

38 HRO, BRC 9. 

39 HRO, BRC 16. 

40 HRO, BRC 17. 

41 J. R. Boyle, Charters of Kingston upon Hull , pp. 1-100. 



the inland trade, and sometimes to the coasting trade. York was an exception; its foreign 
trade was important, which continued hand in hand with Hull. To transship York goods 
at Hull would not be too great an imposition for such an inland port. To impose that 
requirement upon Grimsby, which lay to seaward of Hull, was. The seed of the destruction 
of Hull’s monopoly situation was its winning the right to weigh all goods passing through 
the port. 

The Middle Ages saw an ever increasing accuracy in the weights and measures of all 
goods. The weighing was an essential tool of any regime of taxation. A charter of 
2 1 st August 1598 42 blatantly states: 

There has been a custom, from all time and of the contrary of which the memory of man does 
not exist, that every merchant who came by the water of Humber into the port of Hull, with 
merchandise in any ship for the purpose of commerce should unload, and put upon the land, the 
goods in the port of Hull, in certain staiths, cranes or other places, excepting goods of the citizens 
of York . 43 

Frequently, laws were not initially accepted and a second law was needed to back-up 
or confirm the first. 44 Perhaps to smooth ruffled feathers follow ups were specific as in 
March 18th 1610. 45 This charter stated that Derbyshire lead had to be checked at Hull, 
and, if it was not, the checking still had to be paid for regardless. In the next few years 
these rights were confirmed a number of times. 

York Staiths 

The surviving record of Hull staiths is varied because it is based upon rentals, charters 
and letters. Despite the record of York staiths being primarily from only one source, the 
House Books, it also is varied. The story of the two cities’ staiths are widely contrasted: 
Hull’s is one of unbridled success, whereas York’s is of zealously guarded decline. 

The ease whereby ships obtained passage to York during the Roman and Viking 
periods is evident both in commerce undertaken and in events before the Conquest. 
Domesday, which followed after, clearly states that there was common route upon the 
Ouse — one of the King’s four highways into the city. York, as capital of the North, was 
given jurisdiction in the conservancy 46 of the rivers below it. Whilst the city vacillated in 
its use of that power, bullying the Hatfield Ghace Participants, berating the Bishop of 
Durham at Howden and forever suing Hull interests, it never fully realised its power and 
voluntarily gave it away to British Waterways in the end. 

Not divorced from the way in which the power of conservancy was handed to the city 
was its allocation of power as Admiral of the northern rivers and coasts. 4/ This right 
stemmed from the way in which some law was administered as a peculiar court under 
canon or church law, and York being a metropolis. Whilst the Admiralty Court of the 
Archbishop of York was functioning well into the modern period, the inevitable shift to 
the headports of Hull and London ran unhindered. The power to hold such a court in 
inland England may still exist and be only dormant, however odd it might now seem. 

The memorandum concerning the city’s authority of conservation of 22nd March 
1476 48 is fulsome in describing what must be looked to. The inquisition was to include 
goits, locks and floodgates. Goit is a little used alternative word for staith, with a usage 

42 HRO, BRC 25. 

43 - J. R. Boyle, Charters of Kingston upon Hull , p. 128. 

44 HRO, BRC 27. 

45 HRO, BRC 28. 

46 - B. F. Duckham, The Yorkshire Ouse (1967), 34. 

47 - J. S. Purvis, The Records of the Admiralty Court of York (1962), pp. 1-8. 

48 - A. Raine, York Civic Records ( YCR ), vol. I, YASRS, vol. XCVII (1938), p. 3. 



scattered both sides of the Pennines; the locks were almost certainly staunch locks rather 
than pound locks. This charge to oversee is quoted as stemming from before 1307. It 
was addressed to the bailiffs of Hook and to Howdenshire and orders that, if the nuisance 
to ships was not removed within three months, then it would be upon pain of 100 
mark fine. 

This concern with garths extending out into the river’s stream becomes more active 
with passing years. It is not confined to the shoal upper Ouse but extends to the deeper 
lower Ouse. Here the Corporation considered that any encroachment into the river 
would be an impediment to the scour from tide and freshwater. 49 York’s authority 
extended down into the Humber, so much so that they were able to secure an act for 
navigation in that area in 1531 32. 50 

The logic for the foregoing concerns can be discerned in that it is the city’s route to 
the sea. But York was active with a barge to search out the river Aire in 1478. This was 
after an involvement with the Lord High Admiral, the Duke of Gloucester, at Gowdall 
on the Aire the previous year. 51 This area continued to be a centre of controversy through 
1479, leading to riots in Snaith parish in 1482 and more in 1484. 

The city freemen were active upon the rivers in exercising their rights, given to them 
by charter. Sir Marmaduke Constable held land at Scrayingham, which, whilst close to 
York, was nevertheless upon the Derwent. He attempted to charge them fishing tolls 
against their charter. Wisely they approached him with only a ‘gentle letter’. 52 

York was authorised to oversee the Don also, and this became an active concern in 
1626. The King owned this land south of the Ouse and he hired the Dutch to drain the 
Chase. This eventually required a new outlet for the Don. York forever fearful of their 
dwindling stream in contradiction forced them to build a sluice across the new Don 
mouth so that no tidal force would be robbed from the Ouse. 53 Their misguided sense 
of the forces at play was nevertheless in tune with the times; only an outstanding later 
engineer had sufficient acumen to point out their impediment at Naburn and distract 
them from their fruitless accusations. 54 

This positive interest in ships’ unimpeded access upon the Ouse waters began, in 1503, 
to receive a more regular service. In that year the Mayor instituted an annual river 
survey, which has continued unabated until today. 

Only 30 years after the survey’s institution, the Mayor and Recorder brought them- 
selves into conflict with the Prince Bishop of Durham. The Bishop was at that time 
President of the Council of the North — a singularly powerful position. In addition, the 
holder of the Bishopric was one of England’s richest men. Not infrequently this position 
led the see of Durham to consider itself above any restrictions that might be sought or 
imposed by York interests. The manor of Howden, on the north bank of the Ouse with 
outlying holdings to both west and east, was a substantial property held by the Bishops 
of Durham in succession. On July 9th 1533 it is recorded 55 

... whereof ships and keels freighted with merchandice and victuals cannot pass through the King’s 
stream to and from the said city, but are in great jeopardy of loosing both ship and goods. The 
garths upon the Ouse are made against diverse statutes of the King; and a great number of them 

49 - York City Archives, accession 65 f. 14X; published in TAJ, vol. 66 (1994), p. 182. 

50 An Act for Pulling Down Piles Sett in ye Rivers Ouse and Humbre, 23 Henry VIII c.18. 

51 - A. Raine, YCR , vol. I, TASRS , vol. XCVII (1938), pp. 19-24, 27, 64. 

52 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. VI, TASRS, vol. CXII (1946), p. 128. 

53 - Nottingham University, Special Collections (NU SC), Hatfield Chace Corporation (HCC) 6001, 

pp. 1-40. 

54 - York City Archives, accession 65 f. 14V. 

55 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. II, TASRS, vol. CIII (1940), p. 19 1. 



belong to the Bishop of Durham, which are unlawfully made with stakes, piles and other engines 
to the great nuisance of the King’s liege people ... 56 

York had at one time been a Staple or Customs port. As with the passage of time all 
of this function was transferred to Hull, the weighing for foreign goods for York was done 
at Hull while being transshipped. Conversely, the valuable lead brought down from the 
Dales to York was conveniently weighed in a regulated manner at the city’s common 
crane. The common crane belonged to the city for common use. Like the highway, the 
common staith was the King’s Staith. There appeared to be separate centres of activity 
at this time, which may well have represented the divergent interests of the mayoralty 
and of the King, vested in the manor. 

On June 28th 1476, John Bayley, the waterleder or staith clerk, appeared before the 
Mayor and Chamberlain to receive the special desire of the city. An Act of ordinance 
was made that ‘measurements be taken of all manner of grains, salt, coals and other 
things to be sold, which came into the city on the Ouse. The said John to have the prohts 
of measuring and to pay yearly for the next five years, to receive of every ship, boat or 
other vessell coming unto the staith of the city goods that ought to be metered or measured 
by meter, bushell, half bushell, peck and half peck, to be delivered at all times by the 
said John to the sellers and owners. That is to say, for every 20 quarters of every kind 
of grains and coals id. and for five quarters of salt id., and so after that rate increacing 
and decreacing ... forfeit nd \ 57 However, all can not have gone smoothly because, 
towards the end of that five-year period, it was agreed that the common crane, ‘shall be 
kepid by the chamberlayne and a clerk for the year ensuying’. 

The interests of York and of the Lordship of the manor differed. On March 15th 1490, 
Henry VII had caught the city letting some of its merchants not pay his duties. The King 
had the merchants’ names and was sending to the city his own overseer, John Bampton. 
The King also reminded York that it was in his mind that York was only required to 
abate every fourth cloth for inspection at the Hull custom house. 58 Within a year this 
appears to have led to the King’s standard measures being adopted, for four bushells 
and two nets of sea coal were provided newly made at the city’s cost. It was by these 
and no others that goods were to be measured, the common payment being 2 d. per 
measure for all men. 

Like Hull, York had its other cranes and staiths. In Hull, until the building of a public 
quay for Customs purposes, the main commerce was done at the private staiths of the 
rich merchants. The opposite obtained in York with the main trade being brought to the 
common crane. This situation was buttressed by ‘A bill in paupir dated 26th February 
1505’, which was written on parchment, openly read and set up at the common crane. 59 
‘Every franchised man that has a crane of his own to take up his all manner of crane 
stuff at his crane as his cranes wares; except lead which shall be weighed at the common 
crane’. By 1518, 10th March, the city extended their control ‘Also it is ennacted that 
every ship and boat of all strangers coming to the staith shall pay one time in the year 
to the Chamberlains for every such ship and boat 4 d. for their ryngage’, (ryngage being 
a payment for the bailiff). 

The rigour with which laws were enforced can be visualised in the complaint made in 
midsummer, 24th June 1520, when there is little darkness. The goods were shipped ‘by 

56 A. Raine, TCR, vol. Ill, TASRS, vol. CVI (1942), p. 158. 

57 A. Raine, TCR, vol. I, TASRS, vol. XCVII (1938), pp. 8, 52. 

58 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. II, TASRS, vol. GUI (1940), pp. 64, 82. 

59 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. Ill, TASRS, vol. CVI (1942), pp. 18, 69. 



night suspicously’. For fair trading to take place and be seen to be so done it was normal 
to require such undertakings be accomplished in broad daylight. 

Trade was regulated in other ways: 

Thursday 15th May 1544. Agreed that every freeman of this city that bringeth any manner of 
grain to the King’s Staith shall come to my Lord Mayour for the time being, for a price of all 
such grain. And that they, nor none of them, shall carry any of their said grain from the Kings 
staith before Saturday market be done. Then it shall be lawfull to the owners of any such grain 
to take it at their pleasure. 60 

7th March 1569. Agreed that no manner of person, freeman or stranger, having or bringing any 
manner of grain to this city by water shall be permitted to take up the same, or any part, before 
that he hath a ticket from my Lord Mayour licensing him to take up the same, or else to sell the 
same, at such prices as my Lord Mayour shall assess. 61 

Natural cyclic events such as harvest produce their own rhythms. During manmade 
congestion, good order needed to be imposed: 

15th November 1577. Agreed that every keel, ketch and other vessell, which shall from henceforth 
come to the Staith with any merchant wares or coals, shall be unloaden from time to time, in 
order as they come thither. And that none shall deliver forth of any keel, ketch or other vessell 
any goods or merchandise on land, until such time as that that came before shall be fully discharged 
and carried away. Upon pain of 20 s. And the Staith Keeper, or other presenter, to have for every 
such offence by him presented, 2 s . 62 

The Staith Keeper was a diligent fellow named by the Lord Mayor, and paid yearly 
what the Mayor thought reasonable in 1551. 63 Covering the congestion period, this office 
was enlarged and taken more seriously by 1589. 64 

William Mangham, son and servant of Ralf Mangham, one of the measurers at the staith; took 
his oath in open court for his true and just measuring of corn, grain, coals, salt and other things 
as deputy for his father. Also Thomas Bell, servant unto James Allenby, another measurer there, 
did take like oath. 

In the same year emerges an interesting example of how a tonnage certificate was 
arrived at. 

And now was read in this court a certificate of the burden of a ship. Called the Elizabeth Jonas 
of York, furnished by Francis Jaque and others, and esteemed to be of burden of 200 tunnes and 
upward of her takelinge. Which ship was viewed and seen by diverse of good skill. It is therefore 
agreed that the certificate shall be engrossed and sealed with the Lord Mayors seal. 65 

All of these strictures would have been for nought were it not for two elements of 
wealth. Other towns with water access would have just as much need as York for ordinary 
items of trade such as farm produce and building materials like timber. The situation of 
York was much greater than that of a mere town; it was a city. In importance, if not 
size, it remained the administrative centre second to London. This position gave it a 
special place within the merchant life of quite separate towns as FIull. York merchants 
at Hull had special privileges within the port; at first dominating that port’s commercial 
activity and then later subsiding into a significant portion. Beyond that, York was the 

60 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. IV, TASRS, vol. CVIII (1943), p. 109. 

61 A. Raine, TCR, vol. VII, TASRS, vol. CXV (1949), p. 4. ' 

62 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. VII, TASRS, vol. CXV (1949), p. 164. 

63 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. V, TASRS, vol. CX (1944), p. 50. 

64 - D. Sutton, TCR vol. IX, TASRS vol. CXXXVII (1976), p. 50. 

65 - D. Sutton, TCR vol. IX, m^vol. CXXXVII (1976), p. 53. 



first significant collecting and measuring point for Yorkshire, and indeed Derbyshire, 
lead lead remains a very valuable commodity. 

On November 6th 1498 the full council sat to consider various causes within the public 
welfare according to the ordinances made in other ports. 

It is enacted that all manner of men, denizen as well as foreign, that who from this day forward 
shall bring any manner of lead from Boroughbridge, or any other place, to this city, by land or 
water, to be wound and weighed at the common crane of this city; shall pay to the city for every 
fodder of lead 7 4 ., of which sum a penny shal be given to the labourers for bringing the lead from 
the garret to the scale, from the scale to the crane garth and from the crane garth into the garret 
again, there to be stricken. 66 

Item it is enacted that no manner of ship, keel nor boat take in nor deliver any lead, wine, iron 
or any other merchandise or goods called crane ware but at the common crane upon pain of 
forfeiture, for every time, of 4.0s. to the city according to the ancient ordinance. 

In the way that York interests were quite prepared to bypass Hull, when their chance 
arose, so too did those of Boroughbridge in their turn seek to bypass York, in order to 
get to Hull: 

1 1 th July 1500. It was agreed that no franchised man or person of this city, from hence forth to 
take into his ship, keel or boat any lead which was weighed at Boroughbridge, and carry it to 
Hull or any other place, upon pain of 40s. 

If in the event of it ever happening then they were to be banished and the fine increased 
to 20U 67 

This led directly to conflict on February 20th 1504. 

Assembled at Ousebridge the Master Recorder showed how the King’s Justice of Assize showed 
that John Swale of Richmondshire, a gentleman and lead seller, hath complained that where he 
brought 1 1 fodders of lead to the common crane, and there it hath been a long time and none of 
the city would buy it. Now that John Swale hath sold it to a stranger the mayor hath caused the 
lead to be restrained. 68 

The disputation continued through the following year this time with Newcastle mer- 
chants being brought up. York, and indeed Hull’s, position of seeming monopoly was 
not unusual. Frequently they had reciprocal arrangements with other ports citing London, 
Hull, Boston and King’s Lynn. Foreigners were charged 13 d. for weighing every fodder 
of lead, and for stricking of every score great fotemele 20 d. 69 A fodder, or fother (fathom) 
was a cartload, a thirtieth of which, at about 70 lb, was a fotemele. 70 

The city realised that their good times were coming to an end by a case of 
19th December 1520, which concerned London lead. ‘The price of lead a fodder is from 
5 marks to £4 6s. Lead is the greatest commodity that we have for the support of our 
poor city’. 71 By 1550 a permit was issued to export two hundred fodders of lead out of 
Hallamshire. 72 

Lead was weighed on its outward journey and little else was weighed coming inwards. 
‘23rd January 1521. Did Price 80 ends of Spanish iron, weighing 24 hundredweight, of 
the goods of Thomas Gilbank, armiger. Lying in pawn for £4 to 4 mark the ton.’ /3 Wool 

66 - A. Raine, TCR , vol. I, TASRS, vol. XCVII (1938), p. 138. 

67 A. Raine, TCR , vol. II, TASRS, vol. CIII (1940), p. 159. 

68 A. Raine, TCR, vol. Ill, TASRS, vol. CVI (1942), p. 12. 

69 A. Raine, TCR, vol. Ill, TASRS, vol. CVI (1942), p. 17. 

70 - Compact Oxford English Dictionary (1991), Fother & Fotmal. 

71 A. Raine, TCR, vol. Ill, TASRS, vol. CVI (1942), p. 71. 

72 - A. Raine, TCR , vol. V, TASRS, vol. CX (1944), p. 47. 

73 A. Raine, TCR, vol. Ill, TASRS, vol. CVI (1942), p. 77. 



and cloth has so frequently been a principal Yorkshire export but such cargoes did not 
require weighing and so figure little in the city’s records although some mention of 
differing cargoes is made: ‘19th September 1571. Agreed that all timber lying at the 
common Staith and at Skeldergate postern shall be drawn up with two draughts and laid 
upon the shore’. 74 

In 1498 payment for carrying the cargoes between ship and shore had been settled. 
On 30th October 1566 it was decided how the work should be specifically apportioned, 

It is now agreed that neither the porters nor labourers shall from henceforth carry any wood or 
boards from the stath or landing, so long as the sledmen can be ready to serve at reasonable price 
with their sleds. But at such times as the sledmen are overlayed with other ware, so that they can 
not serve the parties in due time, then the porters to help to bear wood and kidds; and no labourer 
to be in any way taken before the sledmen or porters. 75 

A potentially interesting entry arises with an entry of 3rd July 1573. A Mr Christopher 
Nelson made suit that he might bring western coal to sell in the city. He was granted 
this liberty to bring coal from the West Riding. 76 Further references indicate trade with 
Grimsby and contact with the Hansa Teutonica. A surviving street name ‘Divelinstaynes’ 
is taken as a remnant of trade with Dublin from its dedicated staith. 77 

All of this activity at and near the common staith caused it to need maintenance. 
February 14th 1491: 

It was determined, ordained and enacted for an ordinance firmly hereafter to be observed; that 
every foreigner coming and bringing to the common staith, within the city, any ship, boat, cog or 
other manner of vessel; that cometh by water and fastens at the said common staith shall pay to 
the Chamberlain for the time being; for his fastening, ryngage and quayage of every vessel 4 d.] to 
be employed to the amending of the said quay or staith. 78 

This unfair loading onto foreigners only was clearly not enough. By 1565 a clear 
method of repairing the staith was put in hand. March 1 6th: 

Memorandum. That where Ouse Bridge and staith must be speedily re-edified to the exceeding 
charge of this city, certain motions were made and commented upon by my Lord Mayor, how 
most convenient and without any distress to the citizens, a sum of money may be levied towards 
the said reparations. 79 

Three months later they were ready to act. 

Agreed that two letters shall be forthwith made from my Lord Mayor and his brethren. The one 
to Mister Ralph Hall and the other to Sir Martin Bowes. With as much speed as may be, to get 
a cunning man in devising of jetties for re-edifying and repairing of Ouse Bridge and Staith. And 
Mister Fawks is thought mete to go with all haste for getting the said man. And he to learn if any 
engines, or stuff mete for that purpose, is to be gotten at London, that can not be gotten here. 80 

The following year, on 10th April 1556, materials were being brought in via the staith 
itself; thus indicating that it remained at least usable. William Oldred, the mason, advised 
that ready scalped and squared freestone be bought at 3V a tonne and lime at 3 5. 
the chalder. 

Within eighteen months the repairs were complete. The master mason had been 

74 - A. Raine, TCR , vol. VII, TASRS, vol. CXV (1949), p. 37. 

75 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. VI, TASRS, vol. CXII (1946), p. 1 19. 

76 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. VII, TASRS, vol. CXV (1949), p. 75. 

77 D. M. Palliser, The Medieval Street-names of York, Tork Historian, vol. 2 (1978), p. 9. 

78 - A. Raine, TCR , vol. II, TASRS, vol. CIII (1940), p. 82. 

79 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. VI, TASRS, vol. CXII (1946), p. 97. 

80 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. VI, TASRS, vol. CXII (1946), pp. 100, 113. 



replaced by one of the name of Walmesley. Of his work the city seemed ‘well content’ 
for he was rewarded with £20 ‘over and besides his wages’. 81 The work appears to have 
been undertaken in stages for when Walmesley is rewarded he is also spoken to to be 
here the next year for the staith. Word is given on the following January 15th 1567 for 
the mason to be present on next Low Sunday for repairing the staith’s foundations. 
Walmesley must have impressed his employers because on August 4th the same year he 
and his servants are again rewarded with forty shillings. This time it was for standing 
and working in the water. 

Further expense was made at the staith in 1570 for increasing security. By discretion 
of the Chamberlain doors and gates fitted with ironwork were to be made for keeping 
the wares received there. 82 This cosy discretion and uniformity of resolution was not so 
evident in 1589 when solicitors for the Commons were petitioning. This was for the staith 
to be both repaired and made higher at the far end. As always the work was required 
to be carried out with expedition. 83 

At least one staith was for a dedicated purpose — that of fish landing. Land to the 
north east of Ousebridge for this purpose was set aside in 1567 84 and leased to Andrew 
Trew. Consideration in its provision was made both of the riparians and of access to the 
boats. Mr Trew and his heirs were still in possession five years later, paying 16 d. to the 
Chamberlain yearly. 85 

All of this successful maritime activity did not prevent the citizens being coy about 
their wealth when calls were made upon them in defence of the realm. On February 6th 
1544 they sent a letter to the then Duke of Suffolk who was Lieutenant General of 
the North. 

Please be advised that there are two crayers of 36 tonne apeice, now at York and able to go to 
sea, and no more. Either of the said crayers sail with six men, which shall be ready at Your Grace’s 
commandment upon one days warning. ... Truth is that the water of Ouse is often so low that the 
crayers can not pass from York to Hull, and therefore I will be glad to know your Grace’s pleasure. 
... Further more, please be advised that there are ten vessells belonging to the City called keels. 
They are of 40 or 30 tonnes and not able to go to sea but only to convey merchandise between 
Hull and York. The which vessels shall be ready at all times as it shall please Your Grace. 86 

Later that year they were able to claim ‘that we have no ships nor mariners but only 
lighters’. Central Government, of course, was not to be fobbed off. Twelve months after 
the first letter, a more considered statement was produced. 

Vessels belonging to the city of York: The Margaret, Robert Hikkylton and John Byrtbe owners, 
having her sails and tackle, without ordinance of 41 tonne portage; The William, Francis Trotter 
owner, having his sails and tackle, without ordinance of 38 tonne, which vessel is now pressed to 
Boulogne; The Myghell, Myghell Bynksm owner, having his sails and tackle, without ordinance 
of 36 tonne. 

Whilst their initial letter was extraordinarily rude to the King’s representative, it was, 
nevertheless, not without truth. 

81 - A. Raine, TCR , vol. VI, TASRS, vol. CXII (1946), pp. 119, 123, 128. 

82 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. VII, TASRS, vol. CXV (1949), p. 1 1. 

83 - D. Sutton, TCR , vol. IX, TASRS vol. CXXXVII (1976), p. 95. 

84 A. Raine, TCR, vol. VI, TASRS, vol. CXII (1946), p. 129. 

85 A. Raine, TCR, vol. VII, TASRS, vol. CXV (1949), p. 62. 

86 A. Raine, TCR, vol. IV, TASRS, vol. CVIII (1943), pp. 99, 120, 123. 



August 9th 1557. Whereas a communication was lately heard with Mr Matthew Hirst concerning 
cleansing of a certain part of Ouse, for easy passage of ships to and from this City; the said 
Matthew is first to begin with his work at the staith where the most need is. 87 

Increasingly the depth of water in the Ouse below York was to concern the City 
Fathers. They rarely came to grasp the situation and this is reflected in their generosity 
of 9th March 1570. 

James Cornysshe, shipwright, offered to cleanse the water of Ouse in places needful, and to make 
it 7 ft deep over the shoals at low water. Agreed that if the said James bring the same to pass that 
he then, in consideration thereof, shall have £10 annuity for term of his life. And also that he, 
and James, Robert and John Cornysshe his sons, shall be made freemen of this city without paying 
anything. Agreed also that the said James Cornysshe, and — Todd carpenter, shall go together 
tommorow and provide for timber (where it can be gotten) for making a gabbard, a drag and 
other instruments mete for the said river. 88 

By the end of the Middle Ages, York staiths had begun to lose their dominant impor- 
tance to the city. A practice had been established of moving their wares and needs via 
the flourishing port of Hull. With increased regulation of overseas trade this proved to 
be a satisfactory mode of transport. Added to that land carriage by better roads became 
a competitor to the waterborne traffic as never before. Despite the coming of the railways, 
river traffic did continue. Queen’s Staith, directly opposite King’s Staith, is testimony to 
the Victorian surge in trade. King’s Staith in 1996, with its cobbled working surface 
and stone berth, stands in pristine condition as an example of one of England’s great 
economic places. 

Howdenshire Staiths 

The notes on staiths at Hull and York are taken largely from civic records of major 
places. That staiths figure at all in that type of record is an indication of the status of 
staiths in the economic everyday life of those settlements. Neither of those two places 
produces any records which are exclusively of or about staiths. The records for 
Howden do. 

The staith records for Howdenshire extend back to 1445 and are very complete. 89 The 
records are those which were sent back to Durham by the successive Receivers in the 
Bishopric. The Bishop of Durham held the Lordship of Howden Manor. The records 
extend almost up to the Second World War when the Church Commissioners, in suc- 
cession to the Bishops, disposed of their assets. A large part of the archive are ‘Staith 
Books’ which record the maintenance costs of the staiths. The earliest records are in 
Latin, but then quickly change to English. Those, in English, from the beginning of the 
Early Modern period have been the easiest to transcribe. 

The way in which the staiths emerge from early river bank strengthening is detailed 
by William Dugdale. The Commissioners of Sewers were organising the work of land 
draining by 1427, most notably in the fens. 90 Earlier commissions were underway locally 
in 1294 when Hugh Cressingham and John Lithgreines surveyed the area between 
Cawood and Faxfleet on both sides of the water. This was to assess who ought to repair 
and maintain the banks to secure them against inundation, as they and their ancestors 

87 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. V, TASRS, vol. CX (1944), p. 150. 

88 - A. Raine, TCR, vol. VII, TASRS, vol. CXV (1949), p. 20. 

89 DUL ASC, List of Financial and Audit Records of the Palatinate of Durham to 164.9 ( I 957f P- I0 4- 

90 - W. Dugdale, History of Imbanking and Draining (HID), 2nd edn revised by Charles Cole (1772), p. 369. 



Fig. 2. Plan of Bishops Staith, Howdendyke, 19th May 1823; reproduced courtesy of Durham University, 
Archives and Special Collections, Church Commission, Halmote Court, Sundry Notitia, Bundle 

1 item 1 1 (e). 

in times past had done. The King assigned them to take such course for the redress of 
the same as should be consonant to the laws and customs of this realm. 91 

Various surveyors of the river are noted as the banks eroded and were repaired, year 
by year. Then, in 1314, inhabitants of the river Don complained that, partly because of 
the sea tides and partly because of undue river straightening, their banks were being 
overwhelmed. Nine years later this route for ships to get to Doncaster was set at a fixed 
width of 16 ft and one grain of barley corn. 92 

The earliest direct reference to any staith in Howdenshire does not occur until 1520. 93 
These records are in Latin but fortunately they preserve place names and particularly 
staith names in English. The lists are of costs in maintaining the riverbanks, staiths and 
clows. This type of record was copied down in similar fashion for the next 300 years and 
more. The staiths can be identified with those surviving in 1995. 

91 W. Dugdale, HID, p. 115. 

92 W. Dugdale, HID, p. 118. 

93 - DUL ASC, Church Commission Deposit (CC) 221640. 



At Saltmarsh are listed the great, middle and west staiths; Staith being spelt stath. 
Sandhall has a great staith, Kilpin simply a staith and Skelton one each to north and 
south. The records consulted by Dugdale refer to a place called Dikesmyne, which is 
repeated here. This must be an earlier form of Howdendike, its second element of river 
mouth is still found nearby in Airmyn. At Dykesmyne are found four staiths: great 
(magna), west ebb, east flood and west flood. This first document includes the great staith 
at Boothferry also. The Victorians separated the spelling of Boothferry into two words, 94 
but here is a good clear example of its early merger and dominant usage. This staith can 
clearly be seen by anyone standing on Boothferry Bridge and looking towards the 
Ferryboat Inn. 

Somewhere between the four Howdendyke staiths emerged the old course of the 
Derwent. This had been used for taking the stone into the town with which to build the 
Bishop’s manor house and the minster itself. Clearly this residual dyke gives cause to 
the name of the settlement on the riverbank. Echoing the protected creek of the River 
Hull, perhaps this small stream gave rise to a harbour function here. During the 
Commonwealth it was called Howden Haven. 95 The techniques developed locally to first 
preserve a navigable way and then secondly to drain the land, and thirdly' to keep the 
main tidal river water from out of this dyke, are the elements of engineering which went 
into the construction of staiths. 

Perhaps the commonest staith name is great, which, together with King, Queen, 
Common and People, indicates that they are public staiths for everyone’s common use. 
Locational names such as north and middle are a help in determining precisely where 
they were or are. Simply named staiths, as at Kilpin, also probably indicated public use 
but not always, as in Painter Flatt. 96 These sixteenth-century records indicate a special 
staith usage or function. Where staiths are called ebb and flood then this must indicate 
the period of the tide in which they were used. Spring flood tides in this area only flow 
for about two and a half hours. This, combined with the larger range of the spring tides 
of about six metres, indicates how vulnerable a craft would be to the roaring tide and 
especially the local tidal bore — the eagre. Another element which can be deduced from 
this special situation of ebb and flood staiths is that the ships using them were tied up at 
one end only. This practice continues and can be seen in ships tying up at Victoria Pier, 
Goole. It was depicted in contemporary use in the River Hull. 97 In a busy place, with a 
small quay space, as at York, then more ships could be brought into contact with the 
shore by this practice. 

The Reformation brought about a review of church finances. To that end Howden 
was surveyed in 1561. 98 This survey describes how the timber from Howden Park was 
used for maintaining the staiths. 99 By the end of Elizabeth’s reign, the Bishop in a court 
case had to defend this taking of Great Timber from Howden Park. 

Howden and Howdenshire are situate and lying in a low country subject to inundation of water. 
And in continual danger to be surrounded were not such inundation of water carefully provided 

94 See the street name-plates in Booth Ferry Road, Goole. Maurice Beresford indicates that this must have 
previously been called Moregate or Murham Lane. It leads directly to Murham Staith which lay under the 
present Victoria Pier opposite ShulHeton Mill. 

95 - DUL ASG, CG 23384 p. 22. 

95 - DUL ASC, CG 221641. 

97 British Library, Cotton MS Augustus I, vol. I, f. 80. 

98 - DUL ASG, CC 189550. 

99 J. Raine, On the Episcopal Palace at Howden, Associated Architectural Societies Reports and Papers, vol. 8, 
pt 2 (1866), pp. 295-302. 



for and prevented. By fortifying and strengthening the bank of the rivers in that country with such 
waterworks as in the Bill set forth. 100 

The financial revolution of the previous century began to reach a conclusion in a 
number of Parliamentary Surveys during the Commonwealth period. The surveys in 
general were done with accuracy and much scepticism. The Howden Survey 101 is 
accompanied by articles of instruction of how it was to be done. These instructions 102 
place the office of Admiral hereabouts within the Bishop’s gift. This is clearly a claim to 
conflict with York’s. The surveyors are to seek out where live they who 

do perform and execute such service as they are bound to do, in the repairing, maintaining and 
upholding of the several staiths and water services within the said liberty of Howden. And in 
whose default the same are so leased. 

The Survey penetrates further, wanting to know 

wether hath there been any unloading of merchandise, wares, timber, woods, corne, peats or any 
other carriages upon the staiths belonging to the repair of the said Bishops of Durham. And wether 
the same be by wains carried there to the repairings of the same staith. And by whom is the 
same done. 

The Survey provides a clear picture of Howdenshire in the Spring of 1648. An annual 
market was being held in the town which attracted London merchants. A great road ran 
through to Hull and York and another to the great clothing towns of Leeds, Wakefield 
and Halifax. The town was connected with the great navigable river Ouse by a ditch 
along which the passage of boats was worth i 2 d . 103 Robert Leighton lived in a house on 
half an acre of land next to Saltmarsh East Staith. The house had been built by his wife’s 
former husband, John Empson, for the convenience of attending the staith. 

There is a large common, within this manor, called Bishopsoil of 1,500 acres. The timber from 
which is for the most necessary repairation of the staiths, pikes doughs and waterworks — set up 
to defend the same from the volume of the tide. The charge of maintaining the staiths etc. for the 
last four years amounting commonly to -£\ 70 and upwards. This was done by the Deputy Receiver, 
Mathew Howard, and his acquaintences under the Staithmans hand. Upon the judgement of 
workmen and men of skill and the oaths of other men and in the surveyors own opinion the cost 
would be the same at 2U7 0 - (Wood and timber daily growing dearer and the carriage further off 
now that there is neither on the Lords’ lands. 104 ) 

The tenants and inhabitants of Howden with one mouth affirm that the Lord did, and ought of 
right and custom, make and repair the staiths, pikes and doughs upon the river of Ouse, for the 
necessary saving of the land from the overflowing of the river. We, to be ascertained of the truth 
took, (beside a journey of 30 miles) the pains to search the records extant with the clerk of the 
Commissioners of Sewers from the begining of Queen Mary’s reign to this present year of 1648. 
We find this, which for further satisfaction we have copied: ‘Item we find that the Lord of Durham 
doth maintain all these pikes staiths and foreshores following viz. At Booth two staith and against 
Howden Groves much foreshores. At Painterflatt one staith or pike to be done by the Bishop or 
owner of the ground. At Howden two staiths (but should be three). At Gilpin one staith. At Skelton 
two staiths. In Saltmarsh field two pikes and at Saltmarsh town one staith.’ 10 ' 2 

The Lordship of Howden manor passed into the hands of Sir William Allenson and 
two Netherthorpes. Durham, however, subsequently regained possession and, in 1662, 

10 °- DUL ASC, CC Bpric (1981) 304265 f. 1. 

101 - DUL ASC, CC 23384. 

102 - DUL ASC, CC A. 1 5. 10. f. 1. 

103 - DUL ASC, CC 23384, p. 6. 

104 - DUL ASC, CC 23384, pp. 38 39. 

105 - DUL ASC, CC 23384, p. 43. 



Bishop Cosin surveyed his estates. He clearly states that it is his necessary expense to 
maintain the staiths and banks against the violent irruption of the river. If the land were 
to become flooded due to his neglect, the Commissioners of Sewers would fine both the 
Bishop and his tenants, which would cost yearly £100 or more. He laments that the 
former purchasers had neglected the staiths and banks and were very much ruined. In 
1 66 1 it cost the Bishop no less than £400 in repairs. 106 

The meticulous staithing accounts are resumed for 1665 107 with the first four year 
totals being £81, £53, £80 and £91 respectively. These costs were mostly for timber 
and its carriage, the staithers’ labour being about one sixth of the total. The work is 
surveyed annually by the Commissioners of Sewers and the surveyors are paid 2s. 108 by 
the Bishop to do so. Costs began to rise, with the surveyors’ fees becoming 2 s. 6 d. and 
repairs being undertaken to Howden town end bridge. Thirty six years after the earlier 
major repairs, annual cost had reached £152. The Bishop’s Receiver at Howden, John 
Dunn, paid is. 2 d. for every load of wood, which has its own terminology: 109 
60 kids make a load 
60 piles make a load 
20 bunches of withers a load 
32 yeathers to the bunch 

The timber was brought from five or six miles away. 110 In general the cost stayed within 
budget right throughout John Dunn’s long receivership. He was a canny accountant who 
worked alongside the stathers and charged for his labour alongside theirs. In addition, 
he put down for £6 per year as his salary. 111 His son may have taken over in 1741 112 
but the same name continues until August 18th 1770. 113 Extra cost was incurred in 1756 
to £225 and the year after to £206. 114 Accounts dated 1783 bear the new name of 
Richard Ward, 115 and record that 30 tons of stone to Howdendike staith cost £3 2s. 6 d., 
with the same to Chapmans Staith on August 16th followed by the same again three 
days later. Another Dunn, Blenco, figures in these accounts whilst a woman, 116 Dorothy 
Wells of Boothferry, was supplying staithing wood. More stone is supplied in the Autumn 
of 1 797 1 1 7 with the following year’s total staith cost at £2 14. 118 By 1811 it had jumped 
to £ 47 6 ' 119 

The quantities of timber put each year into staith maintenance indicates that it was 
not durable. Either the wood itself was soft or the structure was eroded by the tide or 
even usage, or perhaps a combination of these factors. Large engineering structures such 
as staiths and locks upon the river were emerging as sound structures of stone in 1699. 120 
Clearly, where stone could be used, as evidenced in the intact wharf at Thorne, less 
maintenance ought to result despite the commodity being more expensive. That is not 
to say that stone use was not without its own problems, for the massive weight involved 

106 - DUL ASG, Cosins Survey (1662), p. 234. 

107 DUL ASC, CC B.ia.i. 

108 DUL ASC, CC B.ia.9. 

109 DUL ASC, CC B.ia.29. 

110 DUL ASC, CC B.ib.43. 

111 DUL ASC, CC B.ib.13 f. 8r. 

112 DUL ASC, CC B.ib.30. 

113 DUL ASC, CC B.ib.49. 

114 DUL ASC, CC B.ib.45, 6. 

115 - DUL ASC. CC A. 10.22 f. iv. 

116 - DUL ASC, CC A. 10.24 f- ir. 

117 DUL ASC, CC A.10.27. 

118 DUL ASC, CC B.ib.50. 

119 - DUL ASC, CC 220896. 

12 °- York City Archives, Accession 65 f. 30V; published in The Local Historian (May 1996), p. 102- 14. 



at the water’s edge required a different technique. The hollow walls at Grimsby, devised 
by John Rennie, were an example of how adaptation had to be employed. 

Stone 121 for the Great Staith at ffowdendike may have been used as early as 1767. 
That Autumn had great rainfall coming down the river as fresh. This swilled away and 
sunk the west side of the Great Staith, leaving the upper platform hollow. It was decided 
to infill this with stone. 122 However, by 1771 conservation of Howden Park had improved 
sufficiently for timber for the staiths to be cut from there rather than having it all bought 
in. 123 Phis was oak timber and the sale of the parts, such as the bark, 124 which were not 
needed for repair were put to offset the cost. 

One of the Bishop’s officers, Arthur Mowbray, was sent down from Durham to survey 
all the staiths in 1793. His paper dated at Sherburn on December 26th 125 gives a vivid 
description of the staiths during this transition from simple wooden structures to more 
durable ones of stone. In addition, there is a good sketch of the river from Boothferry 
down to Saltmarsh. From this map an accurate identification can be made of which 
staiths have survived. 

Eye section of a part of the river Ouse, near Howden in the East Riding of the County of York. 
Taken with an intent to shew the Tucks or Staiths and Cloughs on the north side of the said river, 
repaired and upheld by the Lord Bishop of Durham, his lessee and others. 

General Observations 

The distance between the Bishop of Durham’s first and tenth staith is by computation 
three miles and a half. And except from Boothferry to the Bishops second staith, it does 
not appear that there is any ground immediately adjoining the river belonging the Bishop 
of Durham. The distances between each staith by computation are as follows (viz). From 
the 1 st to the 2nd 2500 yards, from the 2nd to the 3rd 150, 3rd to 4th 350, 4th to 5th 
350, 5th to 6th 800, 6th to 7th 200, 7th to 8th 860, 8th to 9th 100, 9th to 10th 850; 
together 3 2 miles. 

The Bishop of Durhams’ lessee (Mr Jefferson) repairs two staiths marked a, b and one 
clough marked c . The five doughs marked D are upheld and maintained by the owners 
of adjoining grounds. The five staiths marked e are upheld and maintained by Mr 
Schofield of Sandhall. 

Mr Blenco Dunn of Howden estimates the repairing of the Bishop of Durhams ten 
staiths per annum, including risk, as follows Viz: No. 1 £20. No. 2 £40, No. 3 £40, No. 

4 £3°, No - 5 £4°. No - 6 £ 20 > No - 7 £3°. No - 8 £ 20 > No - 9 £ 20 and No. 10 £4°, 
together £200. Yet Mr Dunn hopes that they may not amount to quite so much for a 
few years to come as he believes they [are] now in good condition. 

These staiths and doughs are viewed twice in every year (Lammas and Michaelmass) 
by a certain number of respectable men in the neighbourhood, called Commissioners of 
Sewers. Who examine each staith to see that it is of a proper strength and height to 
prevent the river breaking in upon the banks and overflowing the neighbouring lands. 
They also attentively view the doughs and drains and give such directions for the altering, 
enlarging and amending the doughs and deepening the drains as they think proper. If 
their Directions are not complied with, within the time they limit, a return is said to be 
made to a Court in London. Which imposes fines to be levied on the parties who have 

12L DUL ASC, CC 220475 - 22 paper 2, f. iv. 

122 DUL ASC, CC 220854 letter 2. 

123 DUL ASC, CC 220866 folder 9 letter 3, f. ir; CC 221 143 letter 2. 

124 DUL ASC, CC 22-966 folder 9 letter 5, letter 4, f. iv. 

125 - DUL ASC, Halmote Court (HC), Sundry Notitia (SN), bundle 1, item 1 1 (b) ff 2. 




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Fig. 3. River plan of Howdenshire staiths, 26th December ■ 793; reproduced courtesy of Durham 
University, Archives and Special Collections, Church Commission, Halmote Court, Sundry Notitia, 

Bundle i item 1 1 (b). 



repaired the same and those fines are paid into the hands of the Commissioners and 
applied to those purposes. It appeared to me a little singular that the Bishop of Durham 
should be at so great an expense in repairing such a large number of staiths and so few 
of them adjoining his Lordships estates. And on asking Mr Spofforth this question he 
did not then recollect how the Bishop of Durham could first have been charged with 
these repairs except as Lord of the Manor. And he presumed having repaired them for 
so long a time probably custom would oblige the work to be continued. 

These staiths are upon an average 25 feet high. Built next the water with brushwood 
faggott about 6 foot deep. Bought in the Country (at 6/- per 120) and driven through 
with piles, about 8 feet long. Which are also bought in the neighbourhood at different 
prices (from 1/- to is/6 d per score). It frequently happens in high tides that the water 
breaks over these staiths with great violence, sinks down through the sand or inner lining, 
and by that means washes away the foundation of the faggotts or outer work. Being only 
laid upon the sand and driven through with 8 feet piles, which seem hardly equal to 
support the faggott work 25 feet high, provided there was no extraordinary flood of water 
to encounter with. At other times these staiths receive damage by vessells driving against 
them in stormy weather, and by the ice and other floating bodies coming down the river. 
It probably may be an improvement of these staiths and make them more firm and 
lasting, to drive a set of piles 25 foot long, 3 foot from the faggott work and about 18 
foot distant from each other, round the inside of the staith. And to drive a set of strong 
piles about 10 or 15 feet long (as the foundation may require) equal with the surface 
which would be a foundation for the faggotts. Some few of these might be nearly of the 
same length as the outer ones but smaller. The faggotts might be pressed together with 
small pieces of timber passing over them and nailed to each of these long inner piles. 
This method it is presumed would secure a foundation, and the outer piles would prevent 
the staiths being damaged by vessells in storms, ice etc. and it is thought that when the 
water beats down through the sand, it would pass again into the river thro’ those framed 
faggotts, without doing the staith or foundation any injury. And it is also imagined that 
this method of building them would be little more expense than the present, save the 
expense of the outer piles. To build them with stone would be very expensive, and they 
would not be effectual without they were lined perfectly over the top to prevent the water 
washing down through them. It has been the custom for the people imployed in the 
river, to moor their vessells to anything they can meet with along the side of it, without 
paying any acknowledgement. This I named to Mr Spofforth as being very improper, 
and not only loosing the Bishop of Durham’s right as Lord of the Manor, but doing 
material damage at times to the staiths. With Mr Spofforth’s advice I have directed Mr 
Dunn to demand anchorage and moorages, and also not to allow them to moor their 
vessells but in certain parts of the river. 

I also viewed the clough, made last Summer at Howdendyke, which seems very well 
done. The expence of this clough and the money the wood was sold for, I could not then 
be informed of. The papers Mr Dunn observed with Mr Spofforth and he has promised 
to send them soon. 

Sherburn 26th Deer. 1793 Arthur Mowbray. 

Despite Mowbray’s warning stone was continued with and the brother of P. H. Faber 
advised in 1806 that this be so. The year following Mr Wells wanted to alter the ferry 
landing to improve it for the public. Wells wanted £100 for the capital expenditure of 
this and £20 annually for maintenance. The Receiver at Durham, Mr Davidson, con- 
sidered that half these figures would be enough. Faber interceded to offer a compromise, 



... for on examining the staith I am of the opinion that it will require £50 to be laid out next 
Summer. And can not in its present form be kept up subsequently for £ 10 per annum. I found 
the staiths in the immediate of the ferry chiefly repaired by wellfooting them with stone. Cliff 
stone, as I recommended to Mr Davidson last year. And it gave me peculiar pleasure to observe 
the expense diminished and yet the work rendered more durable. 126 

C. H. Faber makes more observations some nine years after. This begins to introduce 
some of the modern staith names which are now attracting people’s names. It also 
introduces a new descriptive word, hob, which was also found across the river at Swinefleet. 

Remarks respecting the Staiths at Howden 127 
No 1 Ferry Staith 

Nearly bares at low water, a few loadings of cliff load at the crown would do much good but it 
would be very adviseable to leave it to Mr Wells to uphold, even if we allow him £^o per ann. 
The wood work is very bad here & on a moderate calculation it would require £160 to repair 
this staith. 

No 2 Howdendike 

Nearly 14 feet deep at low water at the crown, this is good repair & appears to want no attention 
or addition. 

No 3 Howdendike Clough 

Much shacken, 8 feet deep at low water, cliff would now be of infinite service both at the lower 
wing & crown & would be a protection to itself as well as No 2 against the flood tide. 

No 4 Kilpin Pike 

7 feet deep at low water, in very good repair, the foundation is good, it only wants backing with cliff. 
No 5 Deborah Staith 

13 feet deep at low water, the low end is in bad repair & much exposed, wants winging off & 
plenty of stone. No less a sum than £8°° would build this of stone, neither might it eventually 
answer any good end. 

No 6 Rhodes Staith 

3 feet deep at low water, in bad condition wanting both wood & stone. 

No 7 Skelton Pike 

5 feet deep at low water, wood work in good repair, but wants stoning round. 

No 8 1st Hob 

Threw in cliff here which is doing good, it wants more. The wood work is good. 

No 9 2nd Hob 

In bad condition, wants cliff very much. 

No 10 Saltmarsh staith 

In bad repair throughout, wings decayed, foundations of wood work gone, but there is a good 
base for cliff. Less than £150 will not repair this staith. 

General observations made by Mr Ch. Faber in March 1816. 

In addition to the needful considerations of the Bishop of Durham having only a Life Estate in 
the manor of Howden, there is an almost insurmountable obstacle to the real wellbeing of his 
Lordships staithes, it is this: that the Commissioners of Sewers can oblige the owners of them to 
have & hold a certain number of yards as set out for each staith in superficial good repair, then 
whilst the surface is paid attention to & will pass an annual survey the foundations are neglected 

6 this will account for the very great want of cliff which is to be observed at the foot of almost 
every staith, the wood work of nearly all is in good repair, tho for durability neither the formation 
of the kids, nor the manner of joining them together are to be approved of, the kids are irregular 
in size & therefore do not pack well, & the stakes are joined by bindings, when these decay the 
support is lost; no bindings should be used, but each stake should be held by another with a hook 
to it [r] which when hooked and laid upon the kids acts as a cramp (made use of by masons in 
the cramping of stones together), though the general outside appearance of the staithes does credit 

126 - DUL ASC, HC, SN, bundle 1, item 11 (f). 

127 - DUL ASC, HC, SN, bundle 1, item 11 (d). 



to Mr Dunn, yet the expense attending them appears greater than it ought to be. To put all the 
io staiths into complete repair at once probably not less than from £12 to 1500 [£i,200-£i,50o] 
would be sufficient, less than £200 per ann. would afterwards support them. Mr G. Faber rec- 
ommends it to me to adopt a sort of middleway viz instead of layout out all our money annually 
in kids & none in cliff, expend for a few years a good proportion of it in the latter; for if any of 
the Bishops staiths are bare at low water; much Yorkshire cliff would not therefore be required, 
& the white or Lincolnshire cliff which is procured at comparatively trifling cost would be under 
water as durable as time: this without increasing our annual expenditure we should be gaining as 
a support at the foot of our staiths, which is what they chiefly want. Perhaps it might be the best 
place to do one or two staiths fully & sufficiently every year leaving the remainder on their 
present system. 

There is one other report on the staiths from about this period which is undated. 128 
Part of Howdendyke staith was repaired by Mr Singleton where he moored his boats. 
He paid £5 a year for use of the staith. Saltmarsh staith had a vessel moored to it and 
this staith was enclosed by a day fence. This survey indicates that the staith’s upper 
surface was covered with a type of cement. The winters were considered by the oldest 
person to be particularly destructive to the staiths. It was recommended that a person 
be appointed to prevent wilful damage and that to this end rewards be offered. 

The work of stoning the staiths did get further. A short survey of 1 ith October 1823 129 
states that Howdendyke Ferry staith was finished by Robinson. Kilpin pike staith was 
also finished by him and stoned by Mr. Wells. This had required 540 tons. Skelton great 
staith was similarly done with 2,280 tons. Booth staith was finished by Robinson and 
would require 120 tons of stone to complete it. Presumably Robinson did the wood 
framework. Saltmarsh Hobbs was costing £482 igs. o <£. 1 30 A bill also exists for Captain 
Keldrick bringing 60 tons of cliff stone at is. 3 d. a ton for ten days in 1826 from Barton. 131 

These descriptions of staiths in Howdenshire in the first quarter of the nineteenth 
century give a picture of them whereby the staith structures can still be discerned at the 
end of the twentieth century. The best example is found immediately upstream of 
Howdendyke No. 2 jetty, first described in 1520 as either the west ebb staith or the great 
staith. On present six inch Ordnance Survey maps it is described as Bishop’s Staith. The 
surviving structure has no longer any apparent use; it forms neither part of the flood 
defence barrier nor is it used for any staith function or cargo purpose. Where it has not 
crumbled there is a near vertical wall of dressed stone rising out of the river water. This 
is semicircular in shape, backing onto the land itself. It rises with a slight batter some 25 
ft and has a large platform on top of 30 ft across. Another good example is found at 
Saltmarsh but this is not the original structure, having been modified during the 1980s. 
Again, it has no staith function, merely supporting a navigation light and is known as 
Hall Stone Heap. Many of the other staiths can be identified as low mounds of scattered 
stone, disintegrating into the tide and mud. 

The function of Howdenshire staiths has been taken over and augmented by the four 
berths at the three Howdendyke jetties. The transition from using staiths to jetties is not 
clear. Three ingredients are known which must have had some influence in that shift: 
(1) The creation of the port of Airmyn, (2) The shift from river staiths at Hull to the 
Legal Quay or enclosed dock, and (3) The suppression by Goole Docks of downstream 

128 - DUL ASG, FIC, SN, bundle 1, item 1 1 (c). 

129 - DUL ASC, FIG, SN, bundle 1, item 1 1 (i). 

13 °- DUL ASC, HC, SN, bundle 1, item 11 (g). 

131 - DUL ASC, HC, SN, bundle 1, item 1 1 (h). 



Other Vale Of York Staiths 

Ownership by a long-established institutional landlord of Howden Manor has resulted 
in both a profusion of good, well built staiths there and of the records of them surviving. 
Elsewhere on the estuary there are scattered examples of staiths having existed or still 
existing. Only a few sources of their records have been located: in the Hatfield Chace 
Corporation records, in the Gainsborough Manor records, in papers of the major land- 
owner at Airmyn, in maps and charts of the river for the very many small places along it. 

All of the flat land area south of the Ouse, west of the Trent and east of the Don came 
under the jurisdiction of the Hatfield Chace Corporation. This Court of Sewers, being 
formed as late as 1635, 132 was quite powerful as it exceeded the power of the manor 
courts, which was normal, but also it had permission to divert rivers — which it did. 
Again, this particular archive is complete, running without a break from its inception 
until its function became transferred to the precursors of the present Water Companies 
in 1941 . 133 In its work of eventually diverting the Don can be found the possible formation 
of the staith at Goole. Whilst the Court sat at Turnbridge on the 8th September 1637, 
they directed that it be made by the participants before the last day of March, 134 Richard 
Riley, the keeper at Goole, to have 20 nobles a year, to be paid quarterly. 135 This may 
have been for two staiths. 

Echoing the profusion of staiths just across the river in Howdenshire, a note here indicates 
that there are Tour staiths or jetties’ 136 in Hook. They were in decay and the Court 
commanded the Lord of Hook to repair them before the next court upon pain of £100 
fine. Here at Hook, the local squirearchy were to build ‘one great staith of six score yards 
in length and seven score yards in breadth’. 137 These locals, Sir Phillip Monckton, Sir 
Francis Monckton, Mr Philip Saltmarsh, Thomas Eastoft, Arthur Richard and Thomas 
Stephenson obtained this by petition to the King in the July of 1646. It would appear that 
this staith was built. After 1697 the Lordship of this manor rested with the Lord Mayor 
and citizens of London. They were fined £200 ‘for not repairing Queens Stayth, or New 
Stayth’. 138 However, by 1703 139 the inhabitants and landowners of Hook, Airmyn and 
other places adjacent made a complaint that diverse breaches were made in Hook. By this 
means the water had overflowed upon the country and done great damage. 

By the way the records read, it would appear that the staith in any one place was chiefly 
for the locals’ own use. That the ownership may have been held by a very distant person 
such as the Bishop from another county was a facet of declining feudalism. That the 
property rights in them may have been a commodity, as it was at Hull, 140 is just as likely. 
The cargo output of the River Aire in the late seventeenth century was becoming to be of 
such a quantity that the two towns of Wakefield and Leeds were to combine in their effort 
to secure a better navigation. Both Turnbridge, 141 at the confluence of the old Don and 
Aire, and Rawcliffe slightly lower down the Aire were early transshipment points for the 
West Riding. The Rawcliffe staith was owned by Mr William Battle of Howden. 142 

1 32 ' NU SC, HCC 6011 f. 1. N.B. The pagination of vol. 1 changes. 

133 - NU SC, Hatfield Chace Corporation 2nd Deposit Catalogue p. 1. 

134 - NU SC, HCC 6001 f. 123. 

135 - NU SC, HCC 6001 f. 18 1. 

136 - NU SC, HCC 6001 p. 16. 

137 - NU SC, HCC 6001 p. 20. 

138 - NU SC, HCC 6004 f. 24. 

139 - NU SC, HCC 6004 f. 84. 

140 Lincoln Record Office, T d’ E /G/2/ 17. 

141 Institute of Civil Engineers, Tqv 65. 

142 - NU SC, HCC 6004 f. 130. 



Turnbridge had a dual advantage as a transshipment point. On the one hand it was 
at a river confluence and on the other it lay on the ancient road of Moregate, 143 which 
led from Ferrybridge to Adlingfleet. Cornelius Vermuyden, as the chief participant in the 
beginning of the Hatfield Chace Corporation, closed the Don’s outlet through 
Turnbridge. This is likely to have led to Rawcliffe gaining some ascendancy, as it too 
was on this road and had the minor advantage of being lower down the main river. 
However, that was not enough, for the success of the early Aire and Calder Navigation 
Company 144 was such that they needed a proper transshipment port of their own. Airmyn, 
on the Aire at its confluence with the Ouse, was a suitable place for the maximisation 
of river craft meeting sea-going craft. It lay over a mile from Moregate but the nearby 
ferry over the Ouse at Booth was both well established and well known. 

On January ist 1744, six experienced and skilful captains described Airmyn in glowing 
terms, perhaps as an advertisement for the port. They said that it ‘is and likely to be one of 
the most commodious inland harbours in the North of England’. 145 Airmyn already had a 
staith but the wording indicates a movement for better facilities. The Lordship of this manor 
had passed from Sir Arthur Ingram into the hands of Lord Northumberland. 
Northumberland and Peter Birt entered into an agreement together on August 24th 1759 to 
build ten staiths at Airmyn. 146 The staiths were to be in Great Airmyn for the security of 
vessels, and to be made from timber provided by the Lord. Peter Birt, whilst building and 
managing the port, was to use his utmost endeavours to get the business then carried on at 
Rawcliffe to be transacted at Airmyn. ‘Peter Birt to have sufficient foreshores for landing, 
laying up goods (corn, coals etc). The quantity and yearly value to be determined by Mr 
Seymour in or about October.’ Two years later, in the April of 1761, Lord Northumberland 
was still desirous to encourage the navigation at Airmyn with further buildings. 147 By 1775, 
the port was still booming sufficiently to find staiths being both repaired and being made at 
Little Airmyn, across the river. 148 The Aire and Calder proprietors were paying £63 1 is. o d. 
rent for warehouses, shores, ways etc. 149 Repairs in Little Airmyn varied from £30 to £100 
per annum 1 ’ 0 and some stoning had been done by 1786. 151 

Ships and Cargoes 

The unfolded story of staiths at Hull and York is fairly full, in that there is clear evidence 
of: the staiths themselves; the ships which came there; and of the cargo which was moved 
over the staith betwixt ship and shore. Elsewhere on the estuary evidence is more frac- 
tured, and it has to be extrapolated so that the available records of maritime activity can 
be juxtaposed with either of the phantom elements. For example, there is only a little 
evidence of staith existence at Airmyn but evidence of port activity not explicitly connec- 
ted with staiths is greater. Is it reasonable to state that the ships and cargoes which are 
recorded as being part of the Airmyn scene are definitely connected with staiths? Another 
small port, not dealt with in any detail, is Gainsborough on the Trent. This port is 
significant because it commands the north Midlands. Staiths existed here, but how firmly 
can it be stated that ships used them or that cargoes were moved across them? Conversely, 
to suggest anything else would be ludicrous. 

143 - Public Record Office, MPC 56 and DL 42/ 12 IT. 29v-3or. 

144 - R. W. Unwin, The Aire and Calder Navigation, pt 2, The Bradford Antiquary (1967), pp. 182-85. 

145 - Public Record Office, Rail 800/324. 

146 Beverley Record Office (BRO), DDSD 15 1. 

147 BRO, DDSD 152. 

148 BRO, DDSD 156. 

149 BRO, DDSD 160, first book, note. 

150 BRO, DDSD 160, second book, IT. 23, 26. 

151 BRO, DDSD 160, third book, inside front cover. 



What other port types existed? The abundance of Landing Lane as a street name 
indicates at least one other. Remnants can still be seen just above Boothferry Bridge and 
at Howdendyke. One, intact and still in use in Hull, is known as the Horsewash. Landings 
require very good engineering, which may not have been perfected in the area any earlier 
than lor staith technology. Landings in most muddy rivers are very prone to siltation, 
even a very thin veneer of mud renders their surface difficult to use. 

The abundance of information about staiths in Howdenshire and on its opposite river 
bank leads to the observation that there is negligible direct knowledge of their use. Therefore, 
the following attempt has been made to garner at least some associated material. 

Fishgarths are the local term for weirs in the river with which to catch salmon. They 
were all over the length of the river and extended out into it, sufficiently so for the legal 
width of the river to be considered only 40 ft. 152 In reality, dependent upon where exactly 
the measurement is made, the width is at least four times that figure. The fishgarths were 
a perennial problem to passing ships, so much so that the result could be total loss of 
ship and cargo: at Howkelathes 153 (Hook) by Robert Clerk on Friday 28th June 1392. 
At Skelton: by John Daudesson, Robert Duffeld and Simon de Waghen to the value of 
£60 on Wednesday 26th July 1391; of three unknown men by John Spencer to the value 
of /Joo on Tuesday 22nd September 1377; of three unknown men by John to the value 
of £60 on Friday 5th October 1375; of two Austin friars by John York of Swinefleet to 
the value of £80 on Wednesday 25th June 1376. At Yaldeflete (Yokefleet) to the value of 
£40 in 1390; at Barmby to the value of £20 in 1379; at Saltmarsh in 1378; at Selby 
of two ships to the value of £166 65. 8 d. in 1386; at Turnham Hall to the value of £100 
in 1375; at Reedness to the value of £40 in 1392; at Barlow to the value of £40 in 1378. 

The main river was not the only destination; free passage to Stamford Bridge for ships 
and boats with victuals and other merchandise became obstructed in 1356. 154 These ships 
passed between Airmyn and York by sail or otherwise. 155 

Whilst the repair of staiths and riverbanks fell to the relevant Lordships, another 
element to this is where the bank was also the King’s Highway. It was so between 
Ousefleet and Airmyn in 1362 156 and the tenants whose land abutted the river ought 
from time immemorial to repair the street. At this time the breach was so severe and 
the inhabitants so impoverished that it received the direct attention of the King and was 
placed in the Secret Bag. The liability could not be spread any wider than it was and 
repairs were estimated to require seven years for completion; a full 17 years later, in 
1 379? 1 57 they were still under way. 

The staiths themselves were occasionally the cause, or alleged to be, of damage to 
ships. In the mid-sixteenth century, a vessel was damaged on Asselby staith. 158 John 
Ardingfeld, reported to be sober and no drunkard, was a good master of a keel from 
Fishlake. Despite his skill and cunning, the wind and tide set him onto the staith. He 
had sailed the Ouse for 2 1 years and passed this particular staith many times. He stated 
that the staith had been in a dangerous and parlous state for more than a month before. 

A very similar but more legible Note of Protest is found in 1 7 1 1 with another ship 
being damaged upon Wistow staith. 159 

152 - C. T. Flower, Public Works at Medieval Law (PWML), vol. II, Selden Society , vol, p. 267. 

153 G. T. Flower, PWML, pp. 253-55. 

154 G. T. Flower, PWML, p. 276. 

155 G. T. Flower, PWML, p. 285. 

156 G. T. Flower, PWML, p. 285. 

157 C. T. Flower, PWML, p. xliv, 330. 

158 - Borthwick Institute, York, Admiralty Court, Cause Papers, Box 1 paper 1. 

15 9 . Borthwick Institute, York, Admiralty Court, Cause Papers, Box 1 paper 3. 



William Spinks and Master of the good keel or vessell called Mayflower. Joseph Hodgson, George 
Hall and William Woolworth mariners or watermen of the said Spinks Company. Namely that 
upon Monday, being the 5th day of May 1 7 1 1 , the said keel was lying etc. ladon at the port of 
Kingston] upon Hull with grocorys and other goods for York. And that day came from Hull 
intending their course for York craine or key. And in their way at Wistow landing place, on the 
7th of the said May, the wind at north east, the said keel being hailed by men upon the shore, 
there blew a fresh gale of winds. Such, together with the tide putt the said keel on shore and drove 
her against the staith heads there, and thereby staved her. Notwithstanding that the said Master 
had four men assisting him more than what were absolutely necessary for the working the said 
vessell. And that the said keel or vessell could by no means whereby kept from such damage (this 
the said Master and all his servants usd their utmost endeavour to avoid the staving of the said 
keel). And further those attestants say that the staving the said keel happened in manner aforesd 
and thereupon they do protest against the said wind and tide and also against the said landing 
place and staith heads for the damage etc. 

Staiths Today 

The Ouse and Trent figure in Magna Carta as among the four great rivers of the 
Kingdom. As such, their safe navigation was thereby assured by agreement. That may 
be why there is little evidence of any early pound locks along their courses. However, in 
the early seventeenth century records of the Hatfield Chace Corporation, there is evidence 
of a type of a lock or Soss at Misterton between the Idle and Trent. At this time also, 
Vermuyden built doors across the mouth of the Don to keep tidal water confined to the 
Ouse. The Aire and Calder navigation at the close of the seventeenth century set up 
what may have been the earliest pound locks upon the Humber estuary. The technology 
thereby developed led directly to the building of Queen’s Dock oflf the River Hull in 
1778 in furtherance of the needs of a Legal Quay. 

This first genuine dock upon the waterway was coupled to a growth in trade and so 
the many staiths did not go into decline at that time. The staiths along the river Hull 
became described as Sufferance Quays and enjoyed prosperity into the late twentieth 
century. The staiths in Hull exist as a long line of wooden jetties all joined together. 
Ships and barges still moor to them but few cargoes pass over them. There are still streets 
identifiable with those of the medieval period and some of them bear the appellation 
staith. Two York staiths are readily identified today, King’s and Queen’s staiths opposite 
one another at either end of Ouse Bridge, to which the occasional vessel still moors. 

The success of both the Hull Dock Company and of the Aire and Calder Navigation 
Company complement each other, the one being a conduit to the other’s hinterland. 
With growing trade, Airmyn did not survive as a transshipment point between the West 
Riding and Hull and temporarily Selby was used until enduring success was found in 
the creation of Goole Docks. The success of this artificial outlet was directly at the expense 
of nearby staiths. The Act enabling a canal to be built eastwards to the Ouse and a basin 
there was for just that purpose. The Act did, though, make the Aire and Calder a powerful 
company. This power, combined with the simple advantage that an enclosed dock has 
over any river berth, began the eclipse of the local staiths. 

A combination of the status of the Aire and Calder and trade still booming, enabled Goole 
to break the Customs monopoly enjoyed by Hull. Ships were then, for the first time in over 
four hundred years, lawfully permitted to trade between a place on the estuary, other than 
York or Hull, and a foreign port. Goole then became an attractive and viable port which, 
combined with the newly harnessed power of steam, led to its dominance of trade in the 
immediate area. In 1884 another Act was granted to the Aire and Calder and this enabled 
them to actively suppress those staiths on the Ouse below Goole. 



A Worth View of 9 Seem i: 

/‘u£'?S/!h*d a. t- I&s Jkng f* 1$&0 Jfrr w Ji'^Perfr. ./&*'£■ • 

Fig. 4. A North View of Selby, 1st January 1800; reproduced courtesy of Beverley Record Office, DDSE 4/14. 



The purpose of this suppression was to concentrate as much trade as possible within 
the confines of Goole Docks where the Aire and Calder had power to generate tolls. The 
suppression was not complete; farmers were permitted to use their adjacent staiths for 
their produce. This activity was still under way in the 1950s but has not been evidenced 
since. The Aire and Calder did meet opposition to their plans in the form of Sir Philip 
Saltmarsh. He fought the Aire and Calder’s plans as far as the House of Lords and 
eventually a settlement was reached out of court. This enabled Saltmarsh to have his 
shore of the Ouse at Saltmarsh left intact and unaltered by the Aire and Calder. This 
has led to much of the north or left bank of the Ouse being devoid of training walls. At 
Saltmarsh two staiths stick out into the river. Over the years they have received attention, 
yet retain much of the character that they were given when first stoned. 

Staiths on the Ouse were drawn in the nineteenth century supporting a mast and 
derrick. A fine drawing was recently unearthed of a crane on Lords Staith at 
Gainsborough. Seventeenth-century drawings exist of cranes at the staiths in Hull and 
another has recently emerged of the well documented crane at York. When the 
Humberhead staiths ceased to be used cannot be precisely determined. They were used 
within the present life of some of the old river men. As the rise of steam-powered vessels 
brought about some demise of the staiths, a comparison can be drawn to diesel-powered 
ships bring about a revival of their modern successor — the jetties. 

Abbot’s Staith at Selby lies under a modern grain wharf. This berth is used by ships 
of about 1,000 tonnes. At Howdendyke, slightly bigger ships of about 1,500 tonnes, tie 
up to three modern jetties. In this area there is one surviving good staith and other 
decaying sites; across the river in Hook not even their site survives. The river itself is a 
positive agent of destruction. Not only is there the strong flood and long ebb but there 
is frequently a destructive bore. In addition staiths are at the interface of water and land 
which flexes itself semi-diurnally. Frosts this far inland are also very destructive. 

Staiths on the tidal waterway are not now part of the mercantile activity; some are 
used to support navigation lights, some remain on a map as a place name, but most are 
forgotten. Beyond the tidal range, within the Yorkshire coalfield, staiths were used to get 
coal from the pits to the canal and from the canal to the power stations. Relics of this 
survive and it is in this use for coal where staiths achieved their greatest fame. The 
coaling staiths of Northumberland and Durham were even evoked by John Masefield, 
the Poet Laureate. In this guise, the word journeyed across the world as far as New 
Zealand. At Dunston on the Tyne a full staith is preserved for posterity. In Yorkshire we 
have to rely on street names as a testimony of what once existed. 

Many of the staith sites are in the custody of Associated British Ports. On the one 
hand they erect new streets with an old name, as at Bobbers Staith in Hull in 1995; and 
on the other, in the same year, they tear down Whitgift jetty on the site of its ancient 
predecessor. In so doing, the mariner is deprived of a mark which has guided him for 
at least a millennium. 


Particular thanks is given to Mrs J. L. Drury, Assistant Keeper at Durham. Linda Drury was the 
first to help me with Palaeography and has offered much general, good advice. 

The Council of the Society is grateful to Mr Hughes for a donation in support of the publication of his article. 

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 7 1 , 7999 



By Peter Marshall 

The English parish clergy of Elizabeth Es reign can be seen to comprise, in the memorable 
phrase of Patrick Collinson, a ‘professional minority’ and an ‘incompetent majority’. 1 As 
successive archbishops of York were only too well aware, the minority in their diocese was 
particularly small, and the majority disproportionately large. Quite clearly in the latter 
category was the subject of this paper, John Otes, who for 40 years or so served as minister 
in the unprepossessing parish of Carnaby near the North Sea coast in the East Riding of 
Yorkshire. Otes’s story is a rather unedifying and undistinguished one, which can be told 
largely because he regularly came to the attention of the authorities for petty disciplinary 
offences, and because he several times found himself embroiled in proceedings in the consis- 
tory court in York. Yet it is one that contains many points of interest for the student of the 
Elizabethan Church. It portrays vividly the crushing financial difficulties experienced by a 
number of the clergy, and the effects this could have on lay-clerical relations in the parishes. 
It illustrates how fundamentally ineffective the disciplinary mechanisms of visitation and 
citation could be in bringing about a real and lasting improvement in the behaviour of 
recalcitrant clergy, but at the same time it reveals how the legal system could successfully 
be manipulated by the laity to curb the pretensions of an unreasonable pastor. More gener- 
ally, it exemplifies how the ramifications of the problems of clerical manpower and recruit- 
ment, so acute in Elizabeth’s first decade, could still be felt at the very end of the reign, and 
the implications of this in terms of the so-called ‘professionalisation’ of the parish clergy, and 
the progress of the Reformation in the North. 

John Otes’s association with the parish of Carnaby long antedated his institution to the 
vicarage there in 1568. If he was not himself a native of the parish, he certainly had close 
kinsmen who were. On his deathbed in early 1600 Otes expressed a desire to be buried in 
the chancel of the parish church of Carnaby ‘in the sepulcher of my cosin James Otes’. 2 
Our first reference to a John Otes at Carnaby comes in the inventory of church goods 
prepared by the Edwardian commissioners in 1552, which listed him as a churchwarden. 3 
It is possible, though unlikely, that this is the same man as the later vicar, who was almost 
certainly not a married householder at this time. More probably, this churchwarden was his 
father or an uncle. There is a strong possibility, therefore, that Otes had actually grown up 
in the parish he was later to be presented to as vicar. This is reinforced by the evidence of 
two witnesses in a court case of 1583-84, who claimed to have known him for 26 and 30 

I am grateful to Professor Bernard Capp, Dr Steve Hindle and Dr W. J. Sheils for their comments on 
an earlier draft of this paper. 

L P. Collinson, The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society 1 ggg 1625 (Oxford, 1982), pp. 128—29. 

2 B(orthwick) Institute, York), Reg. 31, fol. i42 r . This may have been the James Otes of Fraisthorpe who 
made his will in Feb. 1592, requesting burial in the churchyard (not chancel) of Carnaby: BI, Prob. Reg. 25, 
fol. 10 1 i r . 

3 Inventories of Church Goods for the Counties of York, Durham, and Northumberland , ed. W. Page, Surtees Society, 
97 ( 1 897), p. 27. 



years respectively. 4 What can be firmly established is that by August 1563 at the latest, when 
as John Otes, clerk, he witnessed the will of Robert Lightfoot, Otes was being employed as 
curate at Carnaby by vicar Anthony Ivesonne. 5 

Ivesonne was uniquely distinguished among the mid-Tudor vicars of Carnaby, and 
therefore, almost by definition, an absentee. From 1539 to 1556 the vicarage was occupied 
by James Todde, whose promotion to the benefice was due to the good offices of William 
Todde of Ripon and John Dyghton of Batley, who together had purchased a grant of 
next presentation to Carnaby from the then patron, Bridlington Priory. 6 Todde’s suc- 
cessor, Plenry Salven, was instituted to the benefice in July 1556, but was dead before 
November. His brief incumbency set the seal upon over three decades’ service as an 
unbeneficed priest in the parish: since at least 1526 Salven had served as curate at 
Carnaby’s dependent chapel at Fraisthorpe. 7 By contrast, Anthony Ivesonne, vicar from 
1556 to his resignation in 1568, seems positively cosmopolitan. Ivesonne was a vicar 
choral of York Minster from the latter years of Henry VIII to his death in 1586. He also 
served the cure in two York city parishes, and was rector of Burghwallis in the West 
Riding, which he held in plurality with Carnaby. 8 It is unlikely that Ivesonne ever person- 
ally served his cure at Carnaby, and he seems to have employed a succession of curates: 
Miles Woodhouse and Edmund Hessey held the post before John Otes. 9 Like Otes, 
Hessey seems to have been a local man. Giving evidence in a breach of promise case 
involving two Carnaby parishioners which came before the York consistory in 1558, 
Hessey admitted that one of the parties was his cousin. 10 He appears, moreover, to have 
been a dutiful and popular curate, witnessing all seven extant Carnaby wills made between 
October 1557 and October 1558. 11 Three of these testators requested prayers or masses 
from him, and a fourth left him 1 2d., ‘desyringe hym to be frendly to my sonne Thomas’. 12 
Hessey serves as a reminder, if any were needed, that good pastoral care did not depend 
absolutely on the residence of the incumbent, and that the non-graduate, unbeneficed 
clergy were not necessarily the parasitic drones of Protestant polemic. 

John Otes succeeded Hessey as curate some time between October 1558 and August 
1 563. 13 Whether he had held any previous position in the Church is uncertain; conceiv- 
ably this was his first ecclesiastical post and his entire ministry, indeed entire life, was 
spent in this one small parish. It was later claimed that Otes had been ordained during 
the reign of Mary, and though no record of his ordination has been found in the York 
episcopal registers or institution act books, there is no real reason to dispute the claim. 14 

4 BI, CP G 2102; 2123. 

5 - BI, Prob. Reg. 17, fol. 29 i r . 

6 - Fasti Parochiales vol. Ill; Deanery of Dickering , ed. N. A. H. Lawrance, Yorkshire Archaeological Society 
Record Series, 124 (1967), p. 19. 

7 - Ibid .; W. Brown and T. M. Fallow (eds), ‘The East Riding Clergy in 1525—6’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 
24 (1917), P- 78 . 

8 - York Clergy Wills 1520-1600: I Minster Clergy , ed. C. Cross (York, 1984), pp. viii, 90, 93, 120, 140-41; York 
Clergy Wills 1520-1600: II City Clerg , ed. C. Cross (York, 1989), p. 67; Purvis, J. S. (ed.), Tudor Parish Documents 
of the Diocese of York (Cambridge, 1948), p. 24. 

9 - Woodhouse witnessed a Carnaby will in April 1557: BI, Prob. Reg. 15(1), fol. 3146 Hessey appears to 
have been active in the parish from at least October 1558: BI, Prob. Reg. 15(2), fol. 62 v . 

10 BI, CP G 751. 

n - BI, Prob. Reg. 15 (2), fos 673 \2f (bis), i28 v , 1293 15 (3), fos 1293 261Y 

12 - BI, Prob. Reg. 15 (2), fos 1283 1293 15 (3), fob 2613 15 (2), fob 1 2 7 V . 

13 The termini are provided by Hessey’s last testamentary appearance, and Otes’s first: BI, Prob. Reg. 15 
(3), fob 2613 17, fob 291". 

14 - BI, CP G 3220. Conceivably, Otes was ordained outside the diocese of York, though this seems prima 
facie unlikely: the mid-Tudor period is characterised by considerable confusion in the record-keeping of the 
diocese: D. M. Smith, ‘The York institution act books: diocesan registration in the sixteenth century’, Archives 
( 1977 - 8 ), PP- 1 7 1 79 * 



How exactly Otes came to Ivesonne’s attention is also unclear. When, a few years later, 
another East Riding curacy, that of Shipton, became vacant Richard Gill, ‘hearinge that 
the chappell of Shipton was destitute of a curate, spoke to this examinate [the rector of 
Cowlam] and requested him to be a meanes for the placinge of him in the same chappell 
... whereupon this examinate wrote a lettre or two in Gill’s behalfe’. 15 Perhaps Otes 
similarly persuaded some substantial local figure to petition Ivesonne on hearing of the 
death of Edmund Hessey. No less intriguing is the question of how Otes managed to get 
himself appointed vicar on Ivesonne’s resignation in 1568. The advowson of Carnaby 
had belonged to the most substantial monastic establishment in the East Riding, the 
Augustinian Priory of Bridlington, but it came into the hands of the crown in early 1537 
when the Prior of Bridlington was attainted and executed for his part in the Pilgrimage 
of Grace. 16 As we have noted, a late monastic grant of next presentation robbed the 
crown of its right to present in 1539, but the next three vicars Salven, Ivesonne, and 
Otes were all royal nominees. In practice, crown presentations to benefices valued at less 
than -£20 a year were in the hands of the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, who of necessity 
had to rely on recommendations from persons with some knowledge of or interest in the 
local situation. It is, in fact, possible to establish who forwarded Otes’s name, as in the 
1560s Lord Keeper Bacon kept a record of successful petitions and commendations. This 
shows that Otes’s patron was none other than the dean of York, and future archbishop, 
Matthew Hutton, a juxtaposition of names that in view of subsequent developments 
seems decidedly ironic. 17 Most probably Hutton got Otes’s name from Anthony Ivesonne, 
with whom he may have had regular contact in the Minster. The process leading to the 
appointment highlights the fact, however, that mere curates such as Salven and Otes 
had a better chance of acquiring a benefice in the 1550s and 1560s than at any other 
time in the sixteenth century. The successive dissolutions of monasteries and chantries, 
as well as the continuing uncertainty as to the status and prospects of the clergy, had by 
the middle of the sixteenth century resulted in a major recruitment crisis to which the 
early Elizabethan Church fell heir. In 1525, no fewer than 587 secular clergy were 
resident in the East Riding of Yorkshire; by 1552 this number had slumped to 185. 18 
Half a century earlier, John Otes might have had to resign himself to a life’s work as a 
lowly waged chaplain; in the late 1560s he could realistically aspire to a benefice. To 
Anthony Ivesonne, Carnaby represented a welcome source of supplementary income for 
a career firmly focussed upon the Minster in York; to John Otes it may have seemed the 
summit of his ambitions. 

Awareness of his good fortune did not, however, predispose Otes to the exercise of a 
ministry characterised by thankful humility: his appointment precipitated a protracted 
struggle with the parishioners that would dog his entire incumbency. The background 
to this was a question of resources. Carnaby was a poor living in a poor area. In 1535, 
at a time when £10 a year has been estimated as the acceptable minimum to support 
an incumbent, it was valued at £j 8v 10 d., considerably less than the unimpressive 

15 - Select Sixteenth Century Causes in Tithe , ed. J. S. Purvis, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series, 114 
(i949f P- 1 32- 

16 - C. Cross, The End of Medieval Monasticism in the East Riding of Yorkshire , East Yorkshire Local History Series, 
47 (1993k P- 26. 

17 British Museum Landsdowne MS 443, fol. i6g v . I am greatly indebted to David Lamburn for supplying 
this reference. On the role of the Lord Keeper, see R. O’Day, ‘The ecclesiastical patronage of the Lord 
Keeper, 1558-1642’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society , 5th series, 23 (1973), pp. 89-107. 

18 P. Marshall, The Face of the Pastoral Ministry in the East Riding 1 525 —1 jpy, Borthwick Paper No. 88 (York, 

r 995k PP- 3M- 



average for East Riding vicarages of £9 is. 3 d . 19 T he sixteenth-century vicars of Carnaby 
were archetypal victims of the system of appropriation, which had siphoned off the major 
part of parochial income into the hands of religious houses, and which despite the pleas 
of reformers to return impropriated tithes to the church, continued unchanged after the 
dissolution to the benefit of largely lay rectors. 20 In Carnaby’s case, the rectory was 
retained by the crown until 1609, but the rectorial tithes were leased to a succession of 
laymen. 21 Otes may well have been under far greater economic pressure than his prede- 
cessors as vicars of Carnaby. The rampant inflation of the mid-Tudor years and associated 
rise in agricultural prices may have benehtted rural rectors and lay lesees with consider- 
able amounts of grain to sell, but this was of little comfort to vicars in appropriated 
livings. Tithes other than those of grain had frequently been commuted for a money 
payment, and as the Carnaby case will exemplify, price inflation provided an almost 
irresistible incentive for tithe-owners to seek to overturn such customary modi decimandi 
and reinstate full payment in kind. Moreover, unlike any of his immediate predecessors, 
Otes had a wife and family to support, having married probably in the early 1560s. 22 To 
help maintain them, Otes took on the curacy of the chapel of Bessingby in the neighbour- 
ing parish of Bridlington, in addition to his own parochial charge, though the stipend 
paid by the crown for this was a mere £5 65. 8 d . 23 Even some of those whom Otes took 
to court over tithes recognised him to be ‘pore and nedy’. 24 Years of periodic litigation, 
however, would do little to alleviate his situation, and probably much to exacerbate it. 25 

The cause of trouble between Otes and the people of Carnaby was the innocent- 
seeming gorse bushes or, as they were known in Yorkshire, whins, growing principally 
on the three areas of moorland in the south of the parish known as the East Moor, West 
Moor and Rowgham Moor. Whins appear to have been a versatile commodity, providing 
material for fuel and fencing, and winter fodder for animals. 26 In 1583, a cartload of 
whins was said to be worth 2 s. 4 dr 1 and the right to cut and gather whins was shared 
between the lord of the manor and the tenants. 

The matter at issue between Otes and his parishioners was in principle a fairly straight- 
forward one: was the vicar, as he claimed, entitled to receive the tithe of whins in kind, 
or was he, as his parishioners claimed, obliged by custom to accept a cash payment in 
lieu? There is little doubt that Otes had thoroughly acquainted himself with the tithing 
arrangements in the parish some years before he became its vicar. On obtaining the 

19 - F. Heal, ‘Economic Problems of the Clergy’, in F. Heal and R. O’Day (eds.), Church and Society in England: 
Henry VIII to James I (1977), pp. 103-04; Lawrance, Fasti Parochiales, Dickering , p. 19; Valor Ecclesiasticus temp. 
Henrici VIII , ed. J. Caley andj. Hunter, Record Commission (1810-34), vol. v. 

20 For contemporary complaints about impropriation, see P. Marshall, ‘The Dispersal of Monastic Patronage 
in East Yorkshire, 1520-1590’, in B. Kumin (ed.) Reformations Old and New: the Socio-Economic Impact of Religious 
Change (Aldershot, 1996). 

21 ■ The Victoria History of the County of York, East Riding , ed. K. J. Allison, 6 vols (London-Oxford, 1969-1989), 

ii. pp. 127, 129. 

22 - In 1575, Otes’s son, Peter, was said to be eleven years old: Archbishop GrindaVs Visitation, 1575: Comperta et 
Detecta Book , ed. W. J. Sheils, Borthwick Texts and Calendars, 4 (1977), p. 85. 

23 - Otes is first explicitly recorded as curate of Bessingby in 1586, though the appointment is likely to be 
earlier: BI, V. 1586 CB, fol. i 62 v ; VCH East Riding , II, p. 20. In 1590 he claimed to have held the cure for 
thirty years: BI, HC CP 1590/ 1. 

24 BI, CPC 3371. 

25 - Otes appears untypical among Yorkshire vicars in using the courts to recover lesser tithe. 1 he extent of 
legal fees compared with the relatively small expected return meant that most clerical suits were instigated 
by rectors and better-off clergy: W.J. Sheils, “‘The Right of the Church”; the Clergy, Tithe, and the Courts 
at York, 1540-1640’, in W.J. Sheils and D. Wood (eds), The Church and Wealth , Studies in Church History, 
24 (Oxford, 1987), pp. 237, 251. 

26 - Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edn, 1991), s.v. ‘furze’, ‘gorse’, ‘whin’. 

27 BI, CP G 2119. 



benefice in 1556, the absentee vicar Anthony Ivesonne had made a twenty-one year lease 
of the vicarage to Thomas and Richard Hessey, presumably kinsmen of his curate, 
Edmund. They in turn leased it in around 1563 to John Scowthorpe, who a couple of 
years later let it to the curate, John Otes. Otes’s lease excluded the tithes of wool, lambs 
and hay, but it did include whins, and at this time, Otes was later to claim, whins were 
paid in kind, or if any composition were made, this was ‘at there own pleasure’, not the 
result of prescriptive precedent. 28 In fact, it seems clear that in the late 1560s tithe whins 
in Carnaby were paid both in money and in kind, a reflection of the fact that two distinct 
groups were liable for them: the parishioners themselves, and the so-called ‘strangers’ 
who had taken leases of the whins on the East Moor and Rowgham Moor from the lord 
of the manor, William Elilton. 29 It was one of these ‘strangers’, Edward Steryng, whom 
Otes, as curate and farmer of the tithes, first sought to sue for withholding his dues for 
whins growing on the East Moor. Nearly 20 years later, Steryng’s servant recalled how 
after ‘sendinge to Yorke for counself his master saw little hope of success at law, paid a 
sum of money for the arrears of tithe, and agreed thereafter to pay in kind, ‘leavinge 
everie tenthe waine lode for the tiethe’. The arrangement was accepted and followed by 
the other lessees, viz. John Dynely, John Storie of Bridlington, and Anthony King, vicar 
of the neighbouring parish of Boynton. Otes was undoubtedly cheered by his victory in 
this first round of the battle for tithe whins, and after his installation as vicar he com- 
menced a suit in the York consistory against several of his own parishioners: William 
Lightfoot, Elenry Daile, Robert Norham, and Robert Brewster. These, then and later, 
insisted that Otes’s predecessors had been content to receive 3^. 4 d. annually at Easter 
in lieu of the tithe whins. The judge in the case, John Rokeby, chancellor of York, 
followed hallowed and sensible canonical practice in directing the parties to take their 
case to the arbitration of a local JP, Walter Strickland of Boynton, to ‘lett him agree 
them att home.’ In addition to the litigants, at least a dozen parishioners went to Boynton 
to petition Otes to call off his suit and had the satisfaction of hearing Strickland pronounce 
them to be in the right. Robert Norham, later recalled how the parishioners had 

alledged ther custome of payment of tenn grotes a yere for ther tythe whynnes, and no whynnes 
at all in kynde, which appeared to be true by the testymony of dyvers then presente, yet the vicar 
being very earnest to have his chardges alledginge that it had coste him muche, Mr Stryckland 
willed them to gyve him x s to be quyett, although he had no right to it ... 

Although Strickland had made clear that the sum was no more than a face-saving, good- 
will gesture, the parishioners were at first reluctant to pay. The impasse was broken when 
one of their number, Ralph Vycarman, agreed to advance the money on behalf of the 
others, Strickland apparently assuring them ‘that they should have it againe if ever the 
vicar troubled them afterwardes for tythe whynnes in kinde’. 30 

For most of the 1570s, the issue remained out of the courts. When the case resumed, 
Otes predictably claimed to have taken whins in kind throughout this period; his 
opponents that he had received the 35. 4 d. annually. 31 There was some truth in both 
claims: the lessees of whins on the moorland continued to pay in kind, while the cash 
payment on behalf of the parishioners seems to have been irregularly forthcoming: Otes’s 
staunchest opponents admitted that ‘the some of iiff. iii d. was sometymes unpaide by 
the space of ii or more yeares together’. 32 The erratic and disparate nature of these 

28 - BI, CP G 2117; 2102; 2271. 

29 BI, CP G 2102; 2123. 

30 - BI, CP G 2102, 21 17; 3371. 

31 BI, CP G 2102, 3371. 

32 - Ibid. 



arrangements seems to have induced Otes to attempt legal action once more in the 
church courts in around 1 579. Again, the parties submitted to arbitration, this time of a 
rather more formal kind. In April 1580 a manorial court leet met at Carnaby, presided 
over by the steward of the earl of Northumberland, Mr Christopher Vavasour. Like 
Walter Strickland a decade before, Vavasour was satisfied by the testimony of witnesses 
that the payment of 3 s. \d. was an ‘auncyent custome’, and ordered that it should continue 
to be paid at Easter by the bailiff of Carnaby in consideration of all tithe whins from the 
East Moor and Rowgham Moor. Further, Otes was to receive 13L 4 d. for the arrears of 
payment, and as a goodwill gesture, he was to have ‘yearly two lodes of whynnes or 
furzes of the free gyfte of the lorde of this manor’. 33 A number of parishioners were 
subsequently prepared to swear that they had seen Otes receive the money from the 
bailiff, William Lightfoot, in Carnaby church on the following Easter day, thus signalling 
his acceptance of the arrangement. 34 

Given that judgment had now twice gone against him, it is hard to see what prompted 
Otes to resort to law for a third time in 1583. Possibly it was in response to the recent 
actions of the bailiff, William Lightfoot. In the wake of Christopher Vavasour’s ruling of 
1580, Lightfoot appears to have instructed the ‘strangers’ farming the lord of the manor’s 
whins on East Moor and Rowgham Moor that they were no longer to pay any tithes in 
kind. 35 Conceivably, Otes may have calculated that he would have more success pursuing 
his case rigorously through the church courts than he had hitherto received at the hands 
of lay judges. Proceedings were instituted against five parishioners: Ralph and Robert 
Hemsley, William Robson, John and William Sharpe, the suit generating the mass of 
depositions which allows the reconstruction of Carnaby affairs over the preceding 20 
years. Once again, witness after witness appeared to testify that Otes’s predecessors 
Robert Thirkelbye and James Todde had ungrudgingly accepted 3 s. 4 d. in lieu of tithe 
whins. One of them, William Rudstone, even claimed to recall an exact conversation 
from nearly 30 years before when vicar Todde received payment in the chancel of the 
church from Ralph Lightfoot, father and predecessor of the current bailiff: ‘quoth the 
vicar unto him, is here all? No, quoth he, I am to pay you i is. iiii^. for the mylle, and 
iiff. iiiiff for the moore’. 36 Once again Otes was outflanked in his attempt to reverse the 
modus. This time, the defendants secured writs of prohibition transferring the case to the 
common law, and the likelihood is that Otes abandoned the suit; certainly the customary 
payment was still in operation in the 1590s. 37 

Lesser men might have been deterred by their experience of such lengthy and fruitless 
litigation, but not John Otes. In 1586 he attempted to sue Ralph Vycarman for withhold- 
ing tithes of fleeces at Fraisthorpe, showing little residual gratitude for the ex gratia payment 
of iov Vycarman had helped procure for him 20 years before. In the event, Otes was 
unable to prove that the sheep in question had been kept inside the parish, and the cause 
failed, with costs awarded to the defendant. 38 In 1597 Otes embarked on a fourth and 
final effort to defend what he perceived to be his rights with regard to tithe whins. The 
trigger on this occasion was the annual accounting in Carnaby church on Easter day 
1 597 . When bailiff William Lightfoot offered Otes the accustomed 35. \d. the vicar refused 

33 BI, CP G 3293. 

34 - BI, CP G 319; 2117; 2123. 

35 BI, CP G 2102. 

36 - BI, GP G 319; 21 17; 2124; 2953; 2123. 

37 BI, CP G 2165; 2953. On the use of writs of prohibition in tithe cases, see R. Houlbrooke, ‘The decline 
of ecclesiastical jurisdiction under the Tudors’, in R. O’Day and F. Heal (eds.), Continuity and Change: Personnel 
and Administration of the Church in England 1500-1642 (Leicester, 1976), pp. 254-55, and idem, Church Courts and 
the People during the English Reformation 1520-1570 (Oxford, 1979), pp. 142-43. 

38 BI, CP G 2239. ^ 



to accept it, and immediately brought an action against Lightfoot in the consistory court 
at York. 39 Otes’s own account stressed that Lightfoot ‘did not offere to this respondent 
the some of iiff. iiii<Y. simplely or speciallie for the tyeth whinnes ... growing the yeare 
before upon the groundes or moores comonly callyd East Moore and Roughame ... but 
generally for the tyeth of all the whinnes’ in the whole parish of Carnaby. In fact, 
Lightfoot had proffered the money for the tithes of all whins at the two previous Easters, 
when the sum had been received in Otes’s absence by the parish clerk. The latter insisted 
under oath that he had accepted the money ‘onelie for Estmour and Rougham tithe 
whyns and not otherwise’, but his admission that on previous occasions when he had 
stood in for the vicar he didn’t know ‘whether the bailiff ment and intended that that 
some should serve for the tith whyns of the whole parish or no’ makes it seem likely that 
after 1580 no-one had in fact been paying whins in kind. 40 Whether sentence in this case 
went for or against Otes is unclear; what is certain is that the whole tithe whins episode 
had engendered a very considerable amount of ill-will in the parish. 

In the last three decades of the sixteenth century, at least 1 1 parishioners of Carnaby 
were sued by Otes for non-payment of tithes. Over the same period, a further ten 
parishioners gave evidence against him in court. This must have constituted a significant 
proportion of all the adult males in a parish that in the mid-sixteenth century comprised 
only 30 houses and ten cottages. 41 Moreover, there seems little doubt that those individ- 
uals sued by Otes were among the most substantial and respectable of the householders 
in the parish. The central figure in the campaign against the vicar’s demands was the 
bailiff, William Lightfoot, 58 years old in 1583 and invariably described as ‘yeoman’ in 
his depositions. 42 A clear status-description survives for only one other of the tithe- 
defendants, Robert Norham, ‘husbandman’, but three others, Robert Brewster, Ralph 
Hemsley and Henry Daile were among the few parishioners of Carnaby making wills in 
this period. 43 Ralph Vycarman was substantial enough to be carrying iol on his person 
at the Boynton meeting of around 1570, and he, or a kinsman, had taken a lease of tithes 
in Fraisthorpe some years before that. 44 Of those giving evidence against Otes, 
Christopher Peeke, John Chapman, Ralph Cappleman, and William Rudston were all 
husbandmen, the last-named also a testator. 45 Such men were well able to organise and 
express a parochial consensus over the whins issue that Otes found impossible to break 
down. Their testimonies repeatedly stressed that those of Otes’s witnesses who admitted 
to paying tithe whins were ‘strangers’, ‘dwelling without the township and parishe of 
Carnaby’; even if some of them were parishioners, argued Ralph Hemsley ‘yet they were 
not the greater parte of the parishioners... nether yet the one half of the said parishioners 
... or yet the hundredthe parte’. 46 In arguing that the existence of the modus decimandi was 
supported by common opinion, voice and fame, and ‘the more parte of the parishioners 
of Carnabie and ... dyverse of there elders’, Ralph Sharpe was rehearsing a conven- 
tional juridical formula, but in this case the cliche was clearly more than a piece of 
special pleading. 47 In court, Otes was forced into the embarrassing admission that one 
of his witnesses, John Jordane of Bridlington, had been indicted and found guilty of 

39 - Easter fell on 27 March that year; the case was before the consistory in April: BI, Cons. AB 48, fol. 8i r . 

40 - BI, CP G 2953. The parish clerk in question was Otes’s son, Peter. See below. 

41 ■ VCH, East Riding , ii, p.126 

42 BI, CP G 2117^ 

43 - Ibid/, Prob. Reg. 21, fol. 4253 22, fol. 6853 26, fol. i6i r . 

44 - BI, CP G 2117; VCH, East Riding, ii, p. 204. 

45 BI, CP G 2117; Prob. Reg. 22, fol. 683 v . 

46 BI, CP G 2089; 2123. 

47 BI, CP G 1964. 



sheep-stealing at the York assizes. 48 The only Carnaby parishioners to depose on Otes’s 
behalf were two labourers he had employed to help him load whins from the East Moor, 
and their evidence was hardly unambiguously supportive. George Preston claimed to 
have no knowledge as to whether these were tithe whins or not, or if 35. 4 d. had been 
paid to the vicar, ‘but he thinketh if the same were paid it was paid in consideracion of 
tiethe whynes’. 49 

The language of parochial solidarity in which Otes’s opponents excelled found concrete 
expression. When Otes took action against the five parishioners in 1583, a common purse 
was organised to meet the costs of the defence. Henry Wright, Christopher Peeke, Robert 
Chapman, Ralph Cappleman and William Rudstone all admitted making payments 
ranging from 2 d. to 3 s. 4 d. ‘towardes the maintenance of this suyt’, and noted that they 
were obliged to ‘give accordynge to taxe hereafter’. Rudston claimed to have contributed 
a total of 40V ‘and hath promised to pay more’. 50 Given the trouble and expense John 
Otes had imposed upon his parishioners by 1583, it is hardly surprising that strong 
feelings against him seem to have been aroused, perhaps particularly because the tithe 
in kind Otes was seeking to impose was not one on individual possession or profit, but 
on a common utility of the parish. Witnesses noted that Otes, like other parishioners, 
was entitled to take away as many whins as he wished for his own use. 51 Lying behind 
the parishioners’ largely legalistic public stand was the imputation of idleness on the part 
of the vicar, and a suggestion that his obduracy in this matter was indicative of a funda- 
mental failure of charity and neighbourliness. Christopher Peeke noted in his testimony 
that he had heard the existence of the modus confirmed by various aged parishioners who 
had died 20 or 30 years before, but added acidly that he did not hear that their elders 
had reported the fact to them ‘by reason of all licklyhood there was no variannce at that 
tyme for anie tieth whinnes demanded by vicars of Carnaby’. 52 Ralph Hemsley was 
prepared to be more explicit: ‘they know the said John Otes to be an unquiet and 
troublesom person, such as would go to lawe without iuste occation upon private dis- 
pleasure conceyved against any of his parishioners’. 53 It was a reputation which Otes 
would find impossible to shake off. In 1596, the year before he resumed his tithe litigation, 
Otes was insulted to his face by James Randall of Bessingby: ‘you ar a troblesome man 
and hath trobled your neybors wrongfullye’. 54 

Otes was not, of course, ‘troubling’ his neighbours continuously for 37 years, at least 
not in the technical sense. The tithe cases in which he involved himself represent snap- 
shots of a clerical career which must have involved much unspectacular achievement and 
much routine activity. Moreover, they represent the debit side of the lay-clerical account 
book. We are entitled to wonder, as Otes’s parishioners themselves must have done, 
about the credit side: what was received in return for their tithes and offerings in terms 
of religious instruction, moral guidance, and pastoral care, and what Otes himself may 
have understood as the duties, as distinct from the rights, consequent upon his ministry 
at Carnaby. 

During the period of Otes’s long involvement with the affairs of Carnaby the polity 
of the English Church was, of course, comprehensively remodelled and refined. Nearer 

48 BI, CP G 2089. 

49 BI, CP G 2102. 

50 - BI, CP G 319. Such common funds appear to have been extremely rare in cases involving clerical, as 

opposed to lay, tithe-owners: Sheils, ‘The Clergy, Tithe, and the Courts at York', p. 247. 

51 BI, CP G 2123. 

52 BI, CP G 319? 

53 BI, CP G 2102. 

54 BI, CP G 3220. 



home, in Carnaby itself the estates held by Bridlington Priory and St Leonard’s hospital 
passed to lay landowners, and the lordship of the manor was transferred to the 'Puritan’ 
Strickland family. 55 As a relatively young man at the time of the Elizabethan settlement, 
Otes may have found it easier than many clerics to adjust to the formal demands of a 
Protestant Church, yet he seems to have remained little touched by its spirit. Certainly, 
there were those among his critics who were prepared to draw such an inference. In his 
bruising verbal confrontation with James Randall, Otes alleged that he had been told 
‘thou arte no prieste, nor any that was maid prist in Quene Marie’s tyme, as thou wast’. 56 
What precisely Randall implied by the gibe is perhaps not immediately clear, but it must 
be that he was articulating the more widely held sense that there was something intrin- 
sically untrustworthy about clerical survivors from the old regime. After all, less than 20 
years before, Otes’s erstwhile patron, the Dean of York, Matthew Hutton had been 
prepared to tell Archbishop Sandys to his face that ‘my orders are better then yours ... 
for I was made a minister by thorder of the Quene’s Majestie and Lawes now established, 
and your grace a priest after thorder of Poperie’. 57 An act of 1571 had required an 
explicit subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles on the part of any clergyman ordained 
under Henry or Mary, and in 1575, when Archbishop Grindal’s chaplains undertook an 
examination of the Yorkshire parish clergy, some incumbents were labelled ‘sacerdos’ or 
‘sacerdos pontificius’ in contradistinction to the ‘ministers’ ordained since Elizabeth’s 
accession. 58 

To many contemporary theorists, the defining characteristic of the minister (as opposed 
to priest) was his willingness and ability to preach the word of God. By this definition, 
the aspersions cast upon Otes appear to have had some grounding. Not only was Otes 
no preacher himself, but he seems consistently to have failed in his canonical duty to 
procure quarterly sermons in his cure, a charge that was levelled against him at the 
visitations of 1575, 1578, 1586, and 1590. 59 In fairness it should be noted that this was 
probably the commonest failing laid to the charge of East Yorkshire incumbents in this 
period, and Otes’s protestation in 1578 that though there had been only one sermon in 
the last year ‘nether could he procure any more by any meanes’ may not be entirely 
disingenuous. 60 As late as 1592, barely a third of the East Riding clergy were noted to 
be preachers. 61 Yet by this time the presence of a handful of self-confident Puritan 
preachers in the Riding had begun directly to impinge upon Otes at Carnaby. In January 
1590 Otes submitted a set of articles to the Ecclesiastical Commission at York complaining 
of the activities of the preacher Lawrence Wyther in the parish of Bridlington. Wyther 
appears to have been, or was portrayed by his enemies to have been, the archetypal 
Puritan semi-conformist: he had refused to wear the surplice, which he termed ‘Romishe 
ragges’, and had accused all who used the sign of the cross in baptism of being papists. 62 
A separate bill of complaint from the churchwardens of Bridlington to the archdeacon 
of the East Riding makes it clear that Wyther had been preaching without a licence in 
the parish church, and had divided the parish to the extent that the wardens feared that 
‘shortlie the matter will growe to some brawle in the church’. 63 Behind Wyther stood the 

55 - VCH, East Riding , ii, pp. 126- 27. 

56 BI, CP G 3220. 

57 BI, Bp C & P XXIX. 

58 - P. McGrath andj. Rowe, ‘The Marian Priests under Elizabeth I’, Recusant History 17 (1984 85), p. 65; 
Purvis, Tudor Parish Documents , pp. 109-25. 

59 Sheils, Grindal’s Visitation , 85; BI, V. 1578 9 GB, fol. 37 1 '; V. 1586 CB, i62 r ; V. 1590- 1 CB, fol. 172V 

60 - Marshall, Face of the Pastoral Ministry , pp. 14- 15; BI, V. 1578-9 CB, fol. 37 r . 

61 - Lambeth Palace Library, MS Carte Miscellanee XII, no. 9 fos I30 r -i35 v (microfilm 35 in BI). 

62 BI, HC CP 1 590/ 1. 

63 BI, CP G 3603. 



local landowner, William Strickland, who 20 years before as MP for Scarborough had 
introduced a bill to purge the Prayer Book of objectionable ceremonies, including the 
sign of the cross in baptism. 64 Otes’s concern with these dramatic developments seems 
at root, however, to have been fiscal rather than ideological. With the probable backing 
of Strickland, Wyther had ejected, or was attempting to eject Otes from his curacy at 
Bessingby, ‘to the great impoverishinge of the said John Otes clerke, his wife and five 
poore children’. 65 

In fact, Otes’s exaggerated show of concern with Wyther’s omission of the proper 
ecclesiastical forms has a distinct ring of the hypocritical about it. Only a few months 
after the submission of Otes’s articles, the Carnaby churchwardens were to complain 
that no surplice had been used in their parish since last Michaelmas. 66 This was almost 
certainly the result of negligence rather than of precisian scruple. Otes had a record of 
similar infractions: in 1575 he had failed to provide evening prayer on three successive 
feast days, in 1586 he omitted perambulations, and in 1590 the wardens noted that ‘they 
never had any register’, a defect that only seems to have been put right when Otes’s 
successor was instituted to the parish in 1600. 67 Nor does it seem the parishioners of 
Bessingby were getting particularly good value for the small stipend which Otes valued 
so highly. In 1586 they complained of a lack of sermons and perambulations, and that 
Otes did not exhort the parishioners ‘to brynge ther youthe to be instructed’. 68 

In terms of the provision of sermons and catechising, the Elizabethan Church was 
making new demands on the parish clergy to which Otes was only imperfectly able to 
rise, but it was also offering a new opportunity to the clergy, of which he was quick to 
take advantage. Otes was married some years before his institution to Carnaby, and was 
to be survived by his wife. We do not know how John and Isabel Otes met, or any details 
of her family or background, though we do know that she gave birth to at least five 
children, of whom at least two were alive in 1600. 69 It goes without saying, of course, 
that the presence of the vicar’s wife was a novel phenomenon in the Carnaby of the 
1560s and 1 570s. It would be pleasing to imagine that Isabel Otes helped to socialise her 
irascible husband and integrate him more smoothly into the life of the community. Such 
evidence as we have, however, suggests otherwise. In the early 1580s she twice found 
herself cited before the York consistory on charges of defamation. The first case related 
to an incident at Hilderthorpe in Carnaby’s neighbouring parish of Bridlington in May 
1580, when Otes and his wife paid a call on John Stone, yeoman, and farmer of Carnaby 
whins. Our witnesses report that Isabel Otes and Stone’s wife, Ellen soon began "to tacke 
together of women with child’, prompting Isabel to remark that according to her infor- 
mation Ellen Stone’s servant, Agnes Owtridge, had been seen at York at a public execution 
‘so great with childe that she mighte have kissed her own bodie’. /0 For her part, Owtridge 
proved every bit as single-minded in protecting her sexual honour as modern students 
of the theme have led us to expect. 71 Summoned before the two women, she vehemently 
asserted her virginity, denied having been at York on the day in question, and proceeded 

64 - J. T. Cliffe, The Yorkshire Gentry from the Reformation to the Civil War (1969), p. 259. 

65 BI, HC CP 1 590/ 1. 

66 - BI, V. 1590 91 CB, detached presentment. 

67 • Sheils, Grinded's Visitation , p. 85; BI, V. 1586 CB, fol. i02 r ; V. 1590 CB, detached presentment; V. 1600 
CB IA, fol. i20 r ; Carnaby Parish Register (BI, microfilm 188), fol. 1. 

68 - BI, V. 1586 CB, fol. 1 6 2 v . 

69 - BI, HC CP 1590/ 1; Reg. 31, fol. 142V 

70 - BI, CP G 2148. 

71 - On sexual honour and defamation, see J. A. Sharpe, Defamation and sexual slander in early modern England: 
the church courts at York , Borthwick Paper, 58 (York, 1980); M. Ingram, Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 
1570 164.0 (Cambridge, 1987), ch. 10. 



to institute a slander suit against Isabel Otes. The latter did not go down without a fight, 
alleging that the prosecution witnesses, John Stone and Richard Chewe, were hopelessly 
biased due to their infatuation with Agnes. Sentence against Isabel was finally given in 
April 1 584. 72 In the meantime, Agnes Owtridge had instigated proceedings before the 
York High Commission against Isabel's husband, John Otes. It is not now clear what 
precise charges were being brought against Otes; conceivably he had repeated or sup- 
ported the libel instigated by his wife. In November 1581, Otes was cited to appear 
before the court, and was placed under a bond of £ 40 when he failed to do so. Upon 
his eventual appearance in February 1582, Otes was dismissed as he and Agnes were 
now said to be agreed, but he was still admonished to appear before the consistory on 
pain of forfeiting his recognizance. 73 The tenacity of a serving girl in pursuing this case 
seems remarkable, but it is virtually certain that the Stones helped and encouraged her. 
Good employers would hardly allow a heavily pregnant unmarried servant to remain 
living under their roof, and Isabel’s slur on Owtridge was thus also a serious slur on 
them. Otes’s apparent failure to do anything to defuse the situation, indeed the likelihood 
that he exacerbated it, seems indicative of the heavy-handed dealing with his more 
substantial neighbours that was to bring him such little satisfaction in his tithe affairs. 

While the Owtridge affair was blowing over, Isabel had involved her husband in 
another legal wrangle. Once again the predicament grew out of the Otes’ social activities 
in the parish of Bridlington. In an alehouse there Isabel Otes fell into an argument with 
William Consett. The latter was clearly an old acquaintance, for the charge Isabel pro- 
ceeded to make against him was an unusual one: ‘Well William, let these matters slipp 
... for I darr sweare of a booke you gott my sone, George ... we have kept a boye of 
youres’. Otes’s reaction to this revelation was hardly that of the outraged husband: when 
Consett angrily declared, ‘thou lyest, whoore’, Otes was reported to remark, ‘I dar lay a 
wager it is even so ... when he roones to mans estate he will have a blacke beard as 
Conset haithe’. 74 Whether this represented a resigned acceptance of an unpalatable truth, 
or a spirited participation in the baiting of Consett, is not immediately clear from the 
context. On balance, the latter seems more likely, though by conniving at the accusation 
Otes might be thought to have been unwisely laying himself open to the social stigma 
and communal victimisation that was often directed at the cuckold in early modern 
English society. As Martin Ingram has shown, even the clergy were not exempt from 
becoming the objects of ridings and ‘rough music’. 75 His wife’s behaviour seems even 
more ill-considered: to admit publicly to adultery was to invite disciplinary proceedings 
in the church courts. In fact this was not to be the sequel, as Consett won his case against 
her. In July 1583 sentence was given against Isabel Otes; a few months later judgment 
went against her in the Owtridge case. 76 Neither sentence specified the exact punishment, 
but the strong probability is that Isabel Otes was required to perform public penance, 
and to ask the pardon of those she had offended. Most likely, Isabel was dilatory in 
fulfilling these requirements: it was noted at the visitation of 1586 that she was excom- 
municate, and her husband was summoned before the court, and admonished to procure 
his wife’s absolution. 77 While it is by no means easy to generalise on the question of how 
the institution of clerical marriage may have affected attitudes towards the ministry in 

72 BI, CP G 2148. 

73 - BI, HC AB 10, fos 1 45 r , 1494 i52 v , i53 v , i54 v ; HC Bonds 35 1581/2. 

74 BI, CP G 2130. 

75 M. Ingram, ‘Ridings, Rough Music and the “Reform of Popular Cultures”’, Past and Present , 105 
(1984): p. 91. 

76 - BI, CP G 2130; 2148. 

77 BI, V. 1586 CB, fol. 1 6 2 r . 



Elizabethan Yorkshire, it is hard to resist the conclusion that in the vicinity of Carnaby 
at least, the minister’s wife was a divisive figure, who hampered rather than supported 
the effective ministry of her husband. To have a wife who was excommunicate and forced 
to do penance, a ‘loose cannon’ scarcely under her husband’s control, must have done 
much to undermine Otes’s already shaky standing in the parish. In these respects Isabel 
Otes may not have been exactly typical, but neither was she unique. At the visitation of 
1590, Agnes Gibson, the wife of another East Riding minister, was reported to be ‘a 
skolde and a slaunderer of her neighbors’. 78 In the light of such cases, the conclusion of 
Philip Tyler that the marriage of the Yorkshire clergy ‘caused the full integration of this 
profession into rural society’ must seem rather blandly optimistic. 79 At the visitation of 
1586 a parishioner of Seamer, Anne Grecyan, was presented for calling the curate’s 
children ‘preistes’ calves’, and for saying that ‘it was never good worlde sence mynisters 
must have wyves’. 80 We can only conjecture as to how far such views were prevalent in 
Carnaby, but dwelling a mere dozen miles up the East Yorkshire coast, Grecyan may 
well have been aware of the goings-on in and around that parish. 

Otes, of course, had a number of ‘calves’ of his own, and his partiality towards them 
created further grounds for friction between the vicar and his parishioners. In 1575 it 
was reported that Otes had appointed his eleven-year-old son, Peter, as parish clerk 
‘against the consent of the whole parishioners’. Moreover, he had allowed him to bury 
a child, ‘contrarye to all lawes as they thinke’. 81 Given what we know of Otes’s precarious 
financial position, perhaps the motive behind this piece of petty nepotism was to keep 
the clerk’s wages within the family. Peter’s nomination must thus have appeared as yet 
another example of Otes’s readiness to exploit his parishioners to his own advantage. In 
the longer term, though, the appointment turned out to be a happy one, for the adult 
Peter served as something of a bridge between the irascible Otes and the parishioners. 
From the late 1580s Peter frequently deputised for his father in receiving tithes and 
offerings at Easter, and increasingly he, rather than the vicar, appears as a witness to 
Carnaby wills. Deathbeds he attended included that of Henry Daile, an inveterate 
opponent of his father over the whins issue. Bryan Lightfoot thought sufficiently highly 
of him in 1591 to bequeath him a ewe, a lamb, and a colt, and in 1600, the year of his 
father’s death, Peter Otes was serving as churchwarden of the parish. 82 

Peter’s apparent success in establishing himself as a significant and respected member 
of Carnaby society, while continuing as parish clerk loyally to serve his father’s interests, 
may serve as an indication that over the long duration of John Otes’s incumbency a 
degree of harmony between the vicar and his parishioners was neither unattainable nor 
irrecoverable when lost. In December 1584, at the height of the tithe conflict, Otes was 
noticeably absent as a witness to the will of Ralph Hemsley, but exactly six years before 
he had been present at the deathbed of another of those he had taken to court over 
tithes, Robert Brewster, who even bequeathed the vicar a bushel of seed barley. 83 In fact, 
Otes was a named beneficiary in five of the 19 Carnaby wills surviving from the period 
of his ministry, one testator in 1566 employing the increasingly uncommon formulation 

78 - BI, V. 1 590- 1 GB, fol. io8 v . 

79 Tyler, ‘The Status of the Elizabethan Parish Clergy’, in G. J. Cuming (ed), Studies in Church History vol. 
IV (Leiden, 1967), p. 85. 

80 BI, V. 1586 CB, fol. io 5 v . 

81 - Sheils, GrindaVs Visitation , p. 85. 

82 - BI, CP G 2953; Prob. Reg. 24, fos 4725 7io v (Lightfoot); 25, fol. 857 v ; 26, fol. 1 6 1 r (Daile); V. 1600 CB 
IA, fol. I 20 r . 

83 - BI, Prob. Reg. 22, fol. 6854 21, fol. 425b 



of a bequest ‘for forgotten tithes, yf any there be’. 84 His presence as a witness in 1 1 of 
the 19 wills suggests perhaps a rather more conscientious approach to the pastoral care 
of his parishioners than one would infer from the visitation reports. In the wider locality, 
Otes was neither ostracised, nor it would seem universally unpopular. The context for 
the slandering of Agnes Owtridge in Hilderthorpe in 1580 was a social visit by the vicar 
and his wife, the householder reporting coming home and finding them ‘sittinge by a 
table ... whome he welcomed and sat downe besyde theme, and the said Isabel Otes 
fallinge in talke with this deponent’s wife’. 85 While Otes’s frequenting of alehouses was 
clearly a symptom of clerical indiscipline, it can also be seen as a willingness to participate 
in ‘good fellowship’, which may not have seemed incongruous to all of his parishioners. 86 
When, as was frequently the case, complaints against Otes were made at visitation, they 
usually concerned sins of omission rather than commission, and he remained clear of the 
more heinous charges of simony, drunkenness, violence, and flagrant immorality brought 
against some other of the East Riding clergy in this period. 87 Yet there was inevitably a 
fine line between ‘good fellowship’ and behaviour simply incompatible with the dignity 
of the ministerial calling. In 1578, for example, it was reported that an alehouse was kept 
in a house belonging to the vicarage, though Otes was by no means unique among the 
Yorkshire clergy in giving in to this temptation. 88 More graphic and unusual was the 
defamatory statement made about him by James Randall in 1596: ‘thou didest pull out 
thy pintle in the presence of certaine gentlemen and did pisse over thy head, sayinge 
maisters did you ever see an ould man do thus well?’ 89 In July 1597, the York consistory 
decided that Otes had indeed been defamed, but in the meantime Randall had been 
provided with a further opportunity to humiliate the vicar and undermine his moral 
authority. In September 1596 Otes had been again cited to appear before the consistory, 
in connection with which case is unclear. His failure to do so led to the issuing of an 
excommunication, which Randall was given to deliver. Despite the pleas of Otes himself 
and the opinion of the apparitor of the deanery of Dickering, that it was sufficient to 
inform Otes privately of the sentence, Randall insisted on denouncing it publicly in 
Bessingby chapel at morning prayers on Candlemas day 1597. Otes’s persistence in 
communicating and ministering the sacraments after this incident led to the issuing of a 
further suspension against him in February 1598. 90 

John Otes drew up his will on 1 1 March 1600. Since probate was granted on 23 May, 
he“ was almost certainly on his deathbed when he did so. The preamble was unexceptional: 
a bequest of the soul to ‘allmightie god my creator and redeemer’, which gives no clues 
to the state of his theological opinions or devotional preferences. Only two parishioners 
are recorded as witnesses: Christopher Walker and John Dale, though the latter may 
have been a son of Henry Dale, with whom Otes had clashed in the past. Other than 
the bestowal of all his goods on his wife, Isabel, son, Peter, and daughter, Susanna, the 

84 BI, Prob. Reg. 17, fos. 558 r (tithe bequest), 7753 21, fos. 42^, 502 v ; 22, fob 438 v . The figure of nineteen 
wills excludes those from the dependent chapelries at Auburn and Fraisthorpe, which for at least part of this 
period had their own chaplains. 

85 - BI, CP G 2148. It is worth noting that Isabel Otes claimed that their information on the putative condition 
of Agnes Owtridge came from William Lightfoot, who, whatever his differences with the vicar, may have 
perceived a shared concern with the incidence of bastardy and the policing of morality. 

86 On this theme, see Haigh, ‘The Church of England, the Catholics and the People’, in C. Haigh (ed.), 
The Reign of Elizabeth I (Basingstoke, 1984), pp. 218 19. 

87 See, for example, BI, HC CP 1571/ 1; CP G 1674; 1817; V. 1567-8 CB, fos. 30 r , i55 r ; V. 157 1-2 CB, 
fob 65 r ; Sheils, GrindaVs Visitation , 72; V. 1578-9 CB, fos. 33 v , 43 v ; V. 1590- 1, fos. 1 1 5 V , 1343 143A 

88 - BI, V. 1578-9 CB, fob 379 For other examples of this offence, see Purvis, Tudor Parish Documents , 
pp. 195-96. 

89 BI, CP G 3220. 

90 BI, CP G 3125. 



will contained only one bequest: ‘I do clearlie forgive all the poore people in Carnabie 
all their tiethes that is behind and unpaid of; and for the tieth of whinnes or furres and 
herbage.’ 91 On the whins issue Otes may not have had the last laugh, but he made sure 
at the end to have the last word. 

Otes thus left behind him a distinctly ambivalent legacy, not only to his parishioners 
but to the historian attempting to place his career in a meaningful context. It would be 
facile to seek to present Otes as a ‘typical’ Elizabethan parish clergyman: he was unusual 
in the heroic scale of his litigiousness, and fell below generally expected norms in many 
other respects. As a pastor of his flock, he seems at times little short of disastrous. Yet 
neither should he be dismissed as a monster or a caricature. On the occasions when, 
along with other East Riding clerics, Otes’s fitness was examined by the authorities, the 
impression given is one of a more-or-less acceptable mediocrity. In 1575, Otes was said 
to understand some Latin, to catechise diligently, and to be religious. 92 In 1592 he was 
noted as no graduate or preacher, but able to catechise and ‘honest’. No fewer than 60 
of the 146 clergy serving in the East Riding at that time were characterised in identical 
terms. 93 Like the great majority of his fellow clerics, Otes was a conformist. When the 
occasion demanded he could, as we have seen, express outrage at Puritan innovation, 
but his true religious feelings (if they existed) remain intractably obscure. There is no 
evidence that Otes was ever overtly opposed to the settlement of 1559. Indeed, in 1589 
he himself may have been the target of Catholic dissidence: the churchwardens’ pre- 
sentment of the following year noted that John Brian had often disquieted the vicar in 
time of divine service, and especially during baptisms ‘reading upon a booke lowder then 
the vycar’. 94 Nonetheless, it may well be that the mediocrity, poverty, and longevity of 
men such as Otes did more than any seminarist or Jesuit to inhibit the spread of 
Protestantism in Yorkshire. Of the beneficed East Riding clergy instituted, like Otes, 
before 1569, at least 34 were still in office in the 1580s, and a further 16 carried on into 
the 1 590s. 95 Such men were not necessarily reprobates, or even ineffective pastors, but 
they were highly unlikely to be the standard-bearers of godly Protestantism. None of the 
1560s survivors who can be found in Archbishop Piers’ certificate of 1592 was noted to 
be a graduate or a preacher. 96 In this context, as Alexandra Walsham has recently 
suggested, the increasingly virulent denunciations of ‘cold statute Protestants’ within the 
growing volume of Puritan anti-Catholic polemic can seem an acute comment on pastoral 
exigencies, rather than a merely conventional rehearsal of contemporary typologies. 97 
While examples of disreputable priests can be found without great difficulty in every 
epoch of Christian history, it is difficult to avoid the temptation to look upon Otes as a 
dislocated person, a transitional figure, uneasily occupying that hiatus before the emer- 
gence of a more fully ‘professional’, graduate clergy in the seventeenth century. Although 
he began his ministerial career in the old devotional world of Catholicism, he brought 
little of its ambience with him into the new dispensation. Bereft of the charism adhering 
to the office of the sacramental priest, he was unable or unwilling to assume the new 

91 - BI, Reg. 31, fol. i42 r . 

92 Purvis, Tudor Parish Documents , 1 2 1 . 

93 - Lambeth Palace Library, MS Cart. Misc. XII, no. 9, fol. 1 34 v , and fos. I30 r -i35 v . 

94 BI, V. 1590— 1 CB, detached presentment. 

95 - Figures derived from the calendars of presentations produced by N. A. H. Lawrance: Fasti parochiales; 
Deanery of Dickering ; Fasti Parochiales Vol V; Deanery of Buckrose, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series, 
143 (1985); ‘The Clergy of the Archdeaconry of the East Riding, Harthill Deanery’, and ‘The Clergy of the 
Archdeaconry of the East Riding, Elolderness Deanery’, (typescripts in the BI: Add MSS 152-55). 

96 Lambeth Cart. Misc. XII, no. 9, fos I30 r -i35 v . 

97 A Walsham, Church Papists: Catholicism, Conformity and Confessional Polemic in Early Modem England (Woodbridge, 

1 993)5 ch - 5 - 



charism of the preaching minister. There remained the traditional and continuing role 
of the clergyman as parochial peacemaker and reconciler of disputes, but this was a part 
he was clearly temperamentally unfitted to play . 98 The ministry of Otes at Carnaby might 
not have been ‘average’ or ‘typical’, but it can nonetheless be regarded as epigrammatic 
of the disjunctures and disappointments to which the vision of a godly reformation in 
the rural parishes of Elizabethan England all too easily fell victim. 

98 - On these categories and types, see Collinson, Religion of Protestants, pp. 104-05^. Bossy, Christianity in the 
West 14.00-1700 (Oxford, 1985), pp. 64-65. 

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. yi, iggg 




By Ann Alexander 

Many of the gentry houses of pre-Georgian Yorkshire were depicted by Samuel Buck in 
his sketchbook of c. 1720, 1 and some of these houses survive in drastically altered forms. 
This article suggests that a building sketched by Buck forms the core of the present-day 
‘Manor House’ at Birdsall. Birdsall is situated on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, near 
Malton. The Manor House, which is superficially Victorian, stands on a plot of land 
associated with the glebe. This property, along with other rectory perquisites, came into 
lay hands at the Reformation, and for many years formed part of the estate of the 
Viscounts Irwin. Members of this family built for themselves two successive houses at 
Birdsall. The second of these houses, dating from 1698—1700, is identifiable with one 
which Buck drew in bold outline only, and labelled ‘The seat of Lord Erwin in Birdsall’. 2 
This rectory Manor House (se 81 i 647) is not to be confused with Birdsall House 
(se 815 648), the principal residence in the village. The latter in its present form is a 
mansion of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, concealing an earlier Jacobean 
version also drawn by Buck. 3 His drawing of this impressive house was executed in some 
detail, and was presumably the main reason for his visit to the village. For it is evident 
from the way Buck captioned his sketch of Lord Irwin’s seat that the artist did not initially 
know who the owner was. 

The Viscounts Irwin had their main residence at Temple Newsam, near Leeds, but 
they were heirs to lands widely scattered throughout Yorkshire. The estate was mainly 
assembled in the early seventeenth century by the creator of the family fortune, the 
financier Sir Arthur Ingram. Among his purchases was the profitable lay rectory of 
Birdsall, bought for his son, Sir Arthur the Younger. 4 This property had once belonged 
to Watton Priory, and had some claim to be a manor in its own right. 5 When the Ingrams 
took possession, a rectory house already existed. 6 However, Sir Arthur Ingram the 
Younger replaced it with another house in the same enclosure in about 1655. 7 This house 
was described as being for Sir Arthur’s own ‘use and appointment’. Sir Arthur had by 
this time inherited the prestigious mansion at Temple Newsam, and so he cannot have 
intended to reside in the much more modest house he built at Birdsall. It is therefore 
clear that the new house was conceived as an informal retreat or ‘hunting lodge’. Perhaps 
it was designed to replace the lodge which the first Sir Arthur Ingram had maintained 

'■ British Library, Lansdown MS 914, facsimile published as Samuel Buck’s Yorkshire sketchbook (Wakefield, 

2 Buck facsimile, p. 33. 

3 - Ibid. p. 35. 

4 - West Yorkshire Archive Service at Leeds, Temple Newsam papers (TN) BL A4; A12. 

5 - E.g. in WYAS Leeds TN F 18/1 Particular, nd; most of the Watton lands at Birdsall had not been part 
of the main Domesday manor. 

6 - Birdsall rectory had earlier been the seat of Roger Thorpe, father of Francis Thorpe ‘of Birdsall’, 
Commonwealth MP. 

7 Nottingham FJniversity, Middleton papers (Mi Da) 133/3, P- 2 > WYAS Leeds TN BL 3/ 10. 



Fig. i. ‘The Seat of Ld Erwin in BurdsalF, from p. 33 in Samuel Buck’s Yorkshire sketchbook. The outline 
of Lord Irwin’s neat rectangular house, built in 1700, adjoins a semi-erased sketch of an earlier building. 
The title of the picture as originally written with a gap to allow the owner’s name to be inserted, 
indicating that the drawing was made on a chance view. Reproduced by permission of the British 

Library and Wakefield Historical Publications. 

at Huby, in the Forest of Galtres. 8 Although the quarry at Huby in the early seventeenth 
century had been deer, deer-parks were by this time becoming an anachronism, as other 
uses of the land became more profitable. Huntsmen sought alternative game by the 
riverside and in the agricultural landscape. There is no evidence to show whether in fact 
Sir Arthur the Younger went to Birdsall to hunt, but his grandson undoubtedly did, as 
will be seen. ‘Hunting lodges’ were not uncommon among great landowners at the time, 
and there were other examples in the neighbourhood. The Stricklands of Boynton had 
a ‘hunting lodge’ at Malton, refurbished in the 1680s and again in the early eighteenth 

8 - G. G. Gilbert, ‘New Park, Huby — an early 17th century hunting lodge’ in The Yorkshire Archaeological 
Journal 45 (1973), pp. 185-88. 



century. 9 And of comparable size was Ebberston Lodge, an elegant retreat situated 
between Pickering and Scarborough, built in 1718 for William Thompson. 10 Both Malton 
and Ebberston lie, like Birdsall, on the fringe of the Derwent valley, with access to both 
high ground and low. 

The Birdsall house of Sir Arthur Ingram the Younger was built in stone and roofed 
with stone slates. The building account does not reveal the details of the plan, but it 
mentions a considerable number of rooms, and hearth tax lists record seven fireplaces. 
A house of similar size and date has been erased from the page on which Buck drew 
Lord Irwin’s Birdsall seat. It is therefore logical to regard the erasure as a picture of this 
house of 1655, abandoned when Buck decided to concentrate on the newer and grander 
building which adjoined it on the rectory site. 

The second Ingram house in the rectory garth was undoubtedly the building boldly 
outlined in the Buck picture. This ‘new house’ was built between 1698 and 1700 by the 
third Viscount Irwin, a grandson of Sir Arthur the Younger. 11 Its genesis and appearance 
are documented in a variety of ways. 

The third Viscount Irwin is known to have been an avid sportsman, and his enthusiasm 
for the chase is commemorated in a full-length portrait showing him with gun, pointer 
and game. 12 He stands by a river, presumably the Aire at Temple Newsam, but the 
mixture of high ground and low recall the landscape of the Birdsall area. This sporting 
portrait, which was painted by Leonard Knyff in about 1700, is contemporary with the 
new house at Birdsall. 

Evidence that from 1693 the Viscount enjoyed entertaining his friends at Birdsall is 
supplied by various accounts. 13 They record expenditure for a series of house-parties 
held there in the autumns of 1693, 1 ^97? ^99, 1700 and 1701, and in the late spring of 
1696. On these occasions, and probably on others, Lord Irwin entertained parties of 
sportsmen, accompanied by large numbers of horses and dogs (in some cases described 
as hounds). The accounts show that the visitors ate considerable quantities of mutton, 
ale and butter, with occasional delicacies such as plaice, lobster or plover. They passed 
the evenings with the aid of tobacco, brandy, playing-cards and ninepins. It seems likely, 
given the landscape of the area, that the game they pursued included pheasants, duck 
and wildfowl, the birds Knyff showed in his portrait. He also depicted a hare, and at 
Birdsall, too, coursing is recorded. In addition, the accounts mention men paid to stop 
up fox-holes and ‘fox-yards’, suggesting that fox-hunting was highly regarded as a sport. 
As an alternative entertainment there might be racing, for Birdsall adjoins Langton, 
where race-meetings were held on the wold. Lord Irwin’s ‘running horses’ were recorded 
at Birdsall on several occasions, one of which coincided with the house-party of spring 
1696. As the parties at Birdsall began before the building of the 1700 house, they clearly 
initially involved hospitality in the 1655 building, by this time the home of the tenant 

9 - Alison Sinclair, ‘Sir William Strickland’s hunting lodge at Malton’ in English architecture public and private: 
essays for Kerry Downes , ed. John Bold and Edward Chaney (1993), pp. 189-97. 

10 - Nikolaus Pevsner, Buildings of England: Yorkshire: the North Riding (1966), p. 154; it is possibly relevant that 
Ebberston had been within the Forest of Pickering. 

11 WYAS Leeds TN BE B3/ 10. The summary of building expenses is dated early 1701, but most of the 
workmen had by then already been paid, largely out of the tithes. The house was probably ready in the 
autumn of 1700. 

12 - For the third Viscount’s fondness for held sports, see James Lomax, ‘The grandeur of plate: 400 years of 
country house silver at Temple Newsam’, Leeds Arts Calendar 107 (1990), p. 11, col. 1. The portrait is at 
Temple Newsam. 

13 WYAS Leeds TN BL B3/8; BL B3/9. 1693 was the year when an agreement to complete the enclosure 
of Birdsall was confirmed, WYAS Leeds TN BL A14; Nottingham University MiDa 133/ 1 ia; 133/ 18. 



farmer. Stables and kennels were built for the visiting animals some years before the 
second Ingram house was begun. 

For this new house, there are detailed building and furnishing accounts which give a 
picture which exactly fits Buck’s outline. The sketch shows a three-storey house only one 
room deep, with a gabled roof. A central door is fronted by an enclosed garden. The 
accounts show that the house was constructed of 359 loads of local stone and 500 bricks. 
The bricks were also made locally, judging from the price, but ‘round tiles’ for the roof 
were brought over from Hull. The front door was emphasised with a painted and gilded 
‘great dial’. Inside, there was a hall, a dining room and a drawing room on the ground 
floor, two main bedrooms and a lesser one on the first floor, and garrets. All the rooms 
were furnished appropriately for their intended use, with chairs in both reception rooms, 
blue and crimson hangings in two of the gentleman’s bedrooms, and simple arrangements 
for the servants in the garrets. 14 Fittings significantly included hooks for hanging guns. 

The building accounts for this new house mention a pantry but no kitchen, which 
suggests that cooking for sporting parties still took place in the earlier house, where the 
kitchen is well-documented. In addition to providing cooking arrangements the old house 
probably sometimes supplied further beds, for there were only three gentleman’s beds in 
the new house, although the reception rooms could each seat ten people or more. 
Improving an earlier house by adding a suite of fashionable new reception rooms was 
not uncommon. 

The cost of building the 1700 house was virtually £360, considerably more than double 
that of the house of 1655, and a further £163 was spent on furnishings. 15 The project 
was therefore a significant drain on Lord Irwin’s resources, which was presumably why 
it was opposed by his steward. 16 The expensive new house was, in the event, of little use 
to its builder, who died in 1702. Although his heir was a keen sportsman, the only 
sporting party at Birdsall subsequently recorded occurred in 1710. As late as 1717 hounds 
and horses from Temple Newsam came to Birdsall at ‘huntingtime’, but no entertaining 
is recorded, and Lord Irwin was elsewhere. 17 Interest in Birdsall as a sporting facility 
had waned. Moreover after 1720 the family was seriously embarrassed financially owing 
to the bursting of the South Sea Bubble. 18 Soon both houses were being let to the tenant 
farmer. 19 In the circumstances it is not surprising that Buck decided that it was not worth 
his while to organise and finish his sketch of c. 1720. 

Rather more than a century later, the first edition Ordnance Survey map labelled the 
rectory house at Birdsall ‘Rectory Manor’, referring to two completely unattached build- 
ings standing corner to corner, at right-angles to each other. 20 The arrangement is com- 
patible with the description of the rectory house given by a mid eighteenth-century 
survey, which cites ‘two dwelling houses now enjoyed together as one’. 21 It also inciden- 
tally supports the theory that Buck’s erased drawing might be an abandoned sketch of 
the 1655 house. 

At present an L-shaped house stands on the site. The exterior is almost wholly 
Victorian, and only close scrutiny reveals that small details from the earlier houses survive 
in the masonry and arrangement. A lintel which could date from 1655 is embedded in 

14 WYAS Leeds TN BL B3/9; BL B3/ 10. 

15 - The 1655 bill (with no movable furniture included) was for 139 2 s. 6 d., WYAS Leeds TN BL B3/9. 

16 WYAS Leeds TN BL C52; BL C53. 

17 WYAS Leeds TN BL C86. 

18 - James Lomas op. cit., p. 13. 

is- WYAS Leeds TN BL Bi (survey n.d. ‘Robert Milner’s farm’). 

20 - First edition O.S. map, 6 ins to the mile, sheet 142 (1855). 

21 ■ Survey as in n. 19. 



one limb of the L, while the other has a wide doorway and tall front windows appropriate 
to the house of 1700. However, the interior, although heavily victorianised, retains 
stronger evidence of the older houses. There are low-ceilinged rooms in the limb which 
contains the kitchen, and high-ceilinged sitting-rooms in the other limb, the two halves, 
with their later corner-piece, forming a very ill-coordinated whole. 22 There seems to be 
no doubt that Lord Irwin’s house of 1655-1700 survives within Birdsall Manor House 
even more conspicuously than the Jacobean mansion of Buck’s drawing survives within 
Birdsall House. Both were carefully disguised to conform with later fashions, one 
Georgian, the other Victorian. 

22 I am very grateful to Mr and Mrs Hart, the tenants, for allowing me to see the house, and to Lord 
Middleton, the landlord, for his cooperation throughout my investigations. 

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. 71, iggg 




By Valerie Taylor 


On 15 August 1981 the Yorkshire Post reported that ‘a small tattered old book recording 
a young Yorkshireman’s life and thoughts in the eighteenth century’ had been given to 
Mr T. Rhynehart of Cherry Burton, North Humberside. 1 He was given an old envelope 
containing the diary by the late Mrs Betty Huzzard, of Cherry Burton who had an 
interest in local history. To Mr Rhynehart the diarist was a mystery but he knew that 
the writer lived in Easingwold, in the (former) North Riding of Yorkshire. He made 
enquiries of the vicar, the Reverend David Porter, and (the late) Mrs Edith Warner, a 
local historian, who identified the diarist as William Lockwood. 


Inside Easingwold parish church on the wall of the south aisle is a mural monument, 
inscribed as follows: 

To the memory of 
William Lockwood, 

attorney-at-law, a native of this place. His integrity and uprightness of conduct, his kindness and 
charity to his neighbours, are seldom equalled and never surpassed. He died March 31st, a.d. 

1836, age 58. 

Fortunately it is possible, through a variety of additional sources, to learn much more 
about William Lockwood, his family, social and professional life. Principally the supple- 
mentary information comes to us by way of his diary. The document, which is deposited 
in the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research (bihr), contains both William 
Lockwood’s diary (from January 1796 to May 1797) and his account book covering the 
years 1797-98. 2 

The town of Easingwold lies in the northern part of the Vale of York 1 3 miles nnw of 
York and ten miles ssw of Thirsk on an important route from York to Newcastle. It is 
one of 19 market towns located within the Vale of York. 3 A weekly Friday market was 
functioning in 1796/97 according to William’s diary. The population census of the town- 
ship in 1801 recorded 1,467 persons and ten years later the 1811 census records 1,576 
persons. 4 This small increase over the ten-year period is indicative of a relatively small 
and static community. 

L C. Parsons, Yorkshire Post , 15 August 1981. 

2 BIHR Easingwold PR 241. Now published: Helen Kirk (ed.) Ye dear Object of my Affections. The Diary of 
William Lockwood of Easingwold 1778-1836, Forest of Galtres Society 1996. The transcript (pp. 1-54) is 
accompanied by a commentary and illustrative essays. 

3 R. W. Unwin ‘Tradition and Transition: Market Towns of the Vale of York 1660—1730’, Northern History, 
17 (1981) pp. 75-98. 

4 - The 1801 Census figure is taken from r fhe House of Commons British Sessional Papers and the 18 1 1 Census 
figure from the VCH, III, (1913) p. 507. 




Although William Lockwood begins his diary in January 1796 it is not until he starts a 
new notebook in May of that year that he actually gives the reason for keeping a diary: 

Ruminating on the various scenes & changes of Human Life The numerous Objects which every 
day command Attention and the various Temptations and snares that are continually laid to delude 
and entrap unwary youth Methought the proceedings of my younger Days (if Fortune should bless 
my Future Hours with Health and Happiness) might sometime hence afford me pleasure in 
recounting them again Therefore the following a Memorandum committed to writing of various 
occurrences in Business & Pleasure as often as Recollection and time would permit 

Even more telling in the context of what follows is the surviving fragment of his 
introductory entry: 

may justly term the agreeablest part of my life when to my inexpressible grief I was recalled 
home to my native place whereafter being about a month at liberty for recreation I was bound 
Clerk to my Father (being in the seventeenth year of my age) on the 22nd of July ad i 794 consigned 
to dwell in the dull place of my Nativity for 5 years. 

Clearly William was shocked by the news that he must return home. Left to himself 
he probably had no intention of returning to Easingwold to be an attorney’s clerk, much 
less to work for his father. The very thought of the prospect caused him dismay. However, 
he obeyed his father’s command and returned home to his family home in the Market 
Place. 5 There is no indication at all in the diary of what he was doing or his whereabouts 
prior to his father’s recall. By the time William began to keep a diary he had already 
spent 18 months working as a clerk for his father (also named William Lockwood) who 
was one of Easingwold’s attornies. 


Within the last 40 years very little has been written about the lives and duties of either 
attornies or surveyors. Robert Robson’s The Attorney in XVIII Century England (1959) traces 
the development of the legal profession giving particular emphasis to the ways in which 
the profession conducted itself. Robson has shown how the attornies and solicitors were 
in need of regulation within their profession which came about through parliamentary 
acts coupled with the formation of some provincial Law Societies. 6 Only in a brief 
appendix does Robson give any description of the life of an articled clerk. 7 In 1976, 
Harry Kirk chose to trace the history of the solicitors’ profession from 1 100 to the present 
day at the invitation of the Law Society. 8 Kirk succeeded in painting a ‘true-to-life’ 
portrait of the profession looking closely at the education, training and the nature of a 
solicitor’s work. 

F. M. L. Thompson published an account covering the first hundred years of the 
Institute of Chartered Surveyors on the occasion of its centenary in 1968 but this did 
not purport to be ‘a complete history of surveyors and surveying’. 9 Recent studies of the 
surveyor’s craft begin with the work of E. G. R. Taylor, who considered the mathematical 

5 - Easingwold Enclosure Award 1812, award no. 133, plotted on the map accompanying the Award NY 
CRO, NRRD 14 and Microfilm 1529 frames 009-056. 

6 - R. Robson, The Attorney in Eighteenth- Century England , (Cambridge, 1959). William Lockwood senior was 
present at the initial meeting of the Yorkshire Law Society on 21 March 1786. He became its vice president 
in 1783 and president the following year. Catalogue of the contents of the Library of the Yorkshire Law Society (York, 
1886), pp. 18 and 21. 

7 Ibid. pp. 155-58. 

8 - H. Kirk, Portrait of a profession (1976). 

9 - F. M. L. Thompson, Chartered Surveyors: the growth of a profession (1968). 



aspect of surveying: ‘Such statistical material as is to be found in extents, surveys, terriers, 
stewards’ accounts and similar documents can only safely be used in so far as the methods 
employed for mensuration and computation are understood.’ 10 Taylor’s work applies 
mainly to seventeenth-century surveying techniques but it is helpful in so far as it demon- 
strates how land surveying came to have a more mathematical base and was further 
aided by the improvement in precision instruments with telescopic sights and verniers. 

Other historians have studied surveyors in the context of the enclosure movement 
where they are noted as assistants to the enclosure commissioners. Information relating 
to the day-to-day work of the surveyor, however, is sadly lacking. More recently in 1993 
Patricia Preece has written of her interest in the work of the Beddings, William and 
Robert (father and son) of Bucklebury, who, using the chain for land measurement, 
practised as estate surveyors in eighteenth-century Berkshire. 11 

Hull deals with those men who acted as surveyors and map-makers concerned with 
the enclosure process in eighteenth-century Bedfordshire. When discussing the surveyor 
at work Peter Hull made this valid statement, ‘that seldom is it possible to see the life of 
a surveyor in closer focus than mere statistics can provide’ implying that little or no 
original background material has survived. Hull has used the executors’ papers of Gee, 
a land surveyor of Turvey, to describe how the enclosure surveyor worked. The papers 
of this Northampton man, who operated from 1775 until his death in 1811, comprise 
‘letters, bills, and general papers’. 12 

The article by Eden (1973) dealt with land surveyors in Norfolk over a three hundred 
year period from 1550— 1850. 13 He introduces the estate surveyor as a man with ‘math- 
ematical know-how’ often doubling his role of surveyor with that of one interested in 
agriculture or as one who might also have had an interest in the work of an appraiser, 
a gauger, a carpenter or an instrument maker. 14 Eden deals with ‘The Surveyors of 
Inclosure’. He provides evidence for the fact that land surveying did tend to be ‘an 
hereditary occupation’ with sons and nephews being involved in the family business. 15 

A publication of a scientific nature on the subject of the surveyor and his instruments 
was issued by the Whipple Museum of the History of Science. This publication was 
devised to accompany a special exhibition of the mathematical sciences in 1982. The 
booklet places the art of surveying clearly on a scientific foundation effectively illustrating 
the development of surveying and the associated instruments that were available to the 
surveyor from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. 

A catalogue featuring ‘Surveyors and Mapmakers’ has proved to be another useful 
source because, in addition to a brief summary of the different types of survey, the 
catalogue lists the whereabouts of some of Yorkshire’s printed maps as well as including 
a list of tools for the surveyor’s craft and a very brief introduction to his life and duties. 


The work of the surveyor in the eighteenth century differed in some respects from that 
of his medieval counterpart. For the latter ‘surveying seems to have been by view and 

10 - E. G. R. Taylor, ‘The Surveyor’, Economic History Review , XVII, (1947) p. 121. 

11 P. Preece, ‘Some eighteenth century chain surveyors: the work of the Beddings of Bucklebury, Berkshire’. 
The Local Historian , 23, no. 4, (Nov. 1993). 

12 P. L. Hull, ‘Some Bedfordshire Surveyors of the Eighteenth Century’, Journal of the Society of Archivists, I, 
( 1 955 ) PP- 3 1 ” 37 - 

13 P. Eden, ‘Land Surveyors in Norfolk 1550-1850’, Norfolk Archaeology , vols. 35-36, (1973), pp. 474-82 and 

(^sfpp- 119-48. 

14 - Ibid. Pt I, p. 475. 

15 - Ibid. Pt II, p. 126. 



estimate rather than by accurate measurement’. 16 Adam Martindale in the sixteenth 
century taught his grammar school pupils surveying methods in the open-air. He deter- 
mined ‘to instruct youths in Mathematical learning’ as well as teaching them the practical 
skills of surveying by chain and how to use a theodolite. 17 A classical education and a 
sound legal knowledge were deemed to be the necessary pre-requisites for those learning 
the art of surveying. 

During the course of the eighteenth century, educational standards improved markedly 
from those of the previous century. In secondary schools greater emphasis was placed 
on the ‘practical application of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and trigonometry’. 18 Some 
schools, like those of Quaker foundation, gave their pupils a grounding in a philosophical 
education which, in addition to mathematics, included a knowledge of mechanics, optics, 
hydrostatics, astronomy, chemistry and botany. They maintained that the teaching of 
these subjects should go hand-in-hand with experiments. 19 

In addition to being taught scientific subjects in school there were individuals who 
took apprentices. One known Yorkshire example was Mr Lund, a land-surveyor and 
land-valuer, of Dringhouses, near York. 20 He took as apprentice one of the Dawson 
brothers (either Miles or William) of Oxton, near Tadcaster, aged 15, who had previously 
been taught geometry and mensuration by the Reverend Mr Atkinson of Thorp Arch. 
Both brothers went on to become enclosure commissioners in the latter part of the 
eighteenth century whilst their brother, John, undertook surveying. 21 

The eighteenth-century surveyor was advised to use the surveying textbooks to learn 
his craft. Further, he needed to be able to apply his knowledge of mathematics and use 
the tables of tangents and sines as well as having an understanding of the required legal 
knowledge. By the end of the eighteenth century, with the enclosure movement in full 
swing, surveyors were in popular demand. Their duties were primarily to assist the 
commissioners with land re-distribution together with the layout and measurement of 
new roads. 


A description of such tools and their application is neatly laid out in William Leybourn’s 
The Compleat Surveyor and this, taken together with the contemporary guide to prices which 
was set out by Joseph Harris in 1783, makes it possible to gain some idea of the cost 
involved for the surveyor. 22 Two essential pieces of equipment required by the surveyor 
would include a plane table and Gunter’s four pole chain. 23 

The latter was obtainable for between 6y. to 125. (3op to 6op) from, for example, ‘At 
the Sign of the Orrery’, 136 Fleet Street, London. The cost of a plane table could range 
from three to five guineas and was used for marking out the bearings taken in the held 
on to a secured piece of paper thus enabling the surveyor to sketch his map there and 

16 - P. L. Hull, ‘Some Bedfordshire Surveyors of the Eighteenth Century’, Journal of the Society Archivists , I, 
( 1 955) P- 32- 

17 A. A. Mumford, The Manchester Grammar School. 1515-1915 (1919) pp. 94-95. 

18 - A. W. Richeson, English Land Measuring to 1800: Instruments and Practices (Cambridge, 1966), p. 142. 

19 - T. Clarkson, Portraiture of Quakerism , (in 3 vols.), vol. 3, (1806) p 362. 

20 - M. Richardson, (ed.) The Autobiography of Mrs Fletcher (Edinburgh, 1875) p. 1. 

21 ■ Ibid. p. 13. P. Eden, (ed.) Dictionary of Ixind Surveyors and Local Cartographers of Great Britain and Ireland 
1550-1850, Pt I, p. 82. 

22 - W. Leybourn, The Complete Surveyor, 5th and final edn, (1722). J. Harris Globes and Orrery, 12th edn, (1783). 

23 - The table of linear measurement was as follows: 

25 links = one pole (or one perch) 

4 poles (perches) = one chain 
10 chains = one furlong 
8 furlongs = one mile 



then. To purchase even these two basic instruments required a minimum outlay of 
£3 9L o d. (£3.45) an d an additional small circular compass would cost at least 3 s. (15P). 

William almost certainly used a plane table and he would have known about the 
theodolite and its function for measuring angles and heights but he had never used one 
in his work. This fact is borne out in part of an entry in his diary for [Wednesday] 
7th December 1796 which reads as follows: 

... made Mr Jackson a present of a Terrier spent an hour or two with him in the Evening discoursed 
upon different Branches of the Mathematicks conversation which perhaps may be of some use to 
me hereafter. He lent me a Theodolite complete the first I ever saw which I intend if I am able 
to put in practice. 

Whether or not William managed to put the theodolite into practice will never be 
known for he does not make any further reference to the instrument again. A theodolite 
was an expensive item and to purchase a new one from London, would cost from three 
to six guineas (£3.15 to £6.30). 

The instrument most commonly used for measuring and taking the dimensions of 
timber was a ‘Coggleshall’s’ or carpenter’s sliding rule. 24 The sliding rule was normally 
made of box wood and, when folded together by a central joint measured one foot in 
length. The sides of the rule, front and back, carried different scales to be used for the 
purpose of taking dimensions, working out proportions and finding the area of plane 
figures. Also included was a table for working out the price of timber, scaled from 6d. to 
24 d . (2.5P to 1 op) per foot. 

To construct his map the surveyor required drawing instruments; drawing pens, paper 
and perhaps a pantograph, the minimum cost amounting to around £8. In all, consider- 
able financial outlay was required to purchase even the most basic equipment necessary 
for surveying. 

William’s account book gives an insight into his purchases of equipment and their cost. 
For example, on the 31 May 1797 he ‘Bought a new inkstand which cost me one shilling 
very portable’ but the ink that he used, according to his diary, he made himself. The 
most expensive purchases he made in relation to his equipment were a copperplate 
magazine costing 18s. od. (9op) and a desk which amounted to 175. 6 d. (87. 5p). Vellum 
too was costly at half a guinea (52. 5p) per sheet. Smaller items, such as, a pocket book, 
a sheet of paper, a pencil and three pot inkstands all cost is. or less. Finally, perhaps 
quite unrelated to surveying, is one item which cannot be excluded and that is William’s 
purchase of ‘scientific experiments’ for which he paid nr. od. In two years he had spent 
a total of £2 1 on od. on his own equipment. 


A surveyor’s work had many facets of which the chief were: timber mensuration and 
valuations; land measuring and valuation; surveying; plan drawing and mapping. Other 
related work included making sundials and undertaking rental valuations. These aspects 
will now be illustrated from William’s diary entries. 


Mensuration or the art of measuring or taking the dimensions of objects such as timber 
‘may be considered an indispensable part of knowledge, with the art of surveying ...’ 
according to George Adams. In this same context in 1789 William’s father was found to 
have had a similar interest in timber. ‘Articles of Agreement Indented’ show that, for the 

24 - G. Adams, Geometrical & Graphical Essays (1803), pp. 485-86. 



sum of £1,240 William Lockwood [senior], Thomas Sootheran and John Smith entered 
into an agreement with The Right Honourable Henry Earl Fauconberg to enter into the 
lands of the latter at Old Byland (near Helmsley) 

.... to Pill [meaning to peel] Fell Gut down take and carry away with Horses and Carts and other 
Carriages All these One Thousand Nine Hundred Oak Trees with the Cyphers thereto belonging 
and also Two Hundred and one Ash Trees with the Cyphers thereto belonging which are marked 
and numbered or Cyphered ... 25 

Lockwood senior, Sootheran and Smith were actively involved in the purchasing of large 
amounts of timber presumably for resale in some form or another several years before 
William Lockwood junior engaged himself in this work. 

In his role as a surveyor William was in demand for measuring wood (for valuation 
purposes) and for marking wood and weighing bark. The diary does not contain any 
detail as to which method of measurement the diarist might have used for the valuation 
work. Timber merchants were known to measure by eye especially when they were 
measuring young trees, whereas when measuring full grown trees the correct method 
required the use of three or four men, ladders and a pole plus a girthing tape. The latter 
method of tree measurement was a slow and expensive business so an alternative method 
using a tape-line might be applied after the trees had been cut down. The timber was 
then ready for sale. William, when called upon to measure wood locally usually did it in 
the afternoon, only once did he measure wood all day. 

Marking wood was done for a different purpose. Oak trees were marked as they stood 
either in a wood or a plantation to indicate which trees were ready to have their bark 
stripped, peeled and then cured. There were only a few weeks in the year when this 
work could be done which was normally between mid-May and mid-June. Calculations 
were then made of how much bark was likely to be removed and how many labourers 
would be necessary to remove it. To cut the trees and peel off one ton of oak-bark could 
cost somewhere in the region of between 45U and 50U a ton. 

Once the bark had been stripped from the oak trees it was laid out on stages rather 
like tobacco to allow it to dry. The free circulation of air was all that was required for 
this purpose. When the bark was dry it could be sold either direct to the tanners from 
the stages, or chopped into pieces, bagged and then delivered to the buyer. William 
actually engaged himself in weighing bark and looking after the wood on one occasion 
and at another time he accompanied Mr Jackson to Angram (near Husthwaite) to look 
at some bark. 

Mr Jackson’s name crops up on several occasions in the diary. He may well have been 
a local man as family reconstitution (using the parish register) of the Jackson families has 
revealed a Thomas Jackson, tanner, and William his brother who traded as a butcher; 
they were aged 52 and 48 years respectively in 1796. Their father, Thomas Jackson, a 
tanner, had died 13th September 1795. Further research using the Universal British Directory 
brings the total number of persons with that surname up to five. 26 As well as the three 
mentioned so far, there was a Thomas Jackson trading as a mercer, draper and bacon 
and butter factor whilst the fifth, named William Jackson, is listed as a watch maker. 
Obviously there is a problem in deciding to which Mr Jackson William might have been 
referring. When it came to mensuration however it is more likely to have been Mr 
Jackson the tanner with whom William worked. 

25 NYCRO ZDV Microfilm 1282, Frames 7532-35. 

26 M. Winton, The Universal British Directory iygg-iyg8, 3, Pt T, (facsimile text edn, King’s Lynn 1993). 




Valuers of timber had to be mindful of two criteria; the first was based on the size and 
quality of the timber and how adaptable it would be for its given purpose, i.e. house or 
ship building. Secondly, because of transport difficulties and given the condition of the 
roads, timber which lay closer to the road or to navigable water was considered to have 
greater value. When valuing wood, William usually worked alongside either Mr Smith 
or Mr Jackson. 

On [Tuesday] 29th November he ‘Set off with Mr Smith to Catton 27 to value wood’. 
Unfortunately William does not punctuate his diary entries and following on he records, 
‘came to Thirsk ... 28 — where he spent the evening with the Walkers and stayed over- 
night’. 29 The next day, ‘being the coldest I was ever out in since I can remember’, he 
spent marking wood and did not arrive back home to Easingwold until nine o’clock that 
evening. The following day, [Thursday] 1st December William employed himself in 
calculations all day; presumably these were related to the valuation of the wood but he 
does not amplify his statement neither does he identify for whom it was made. The 
answer lies in an entry in William’s account book made some eight months later on 
25th August 1797 when he states he was paid £2 125. 6 d. by Mrs Livesay for valuing 
wood at Catton. 

Early in the following year, on [Tuesday] 1 7th January 1 797, William carried out another 
timber valuation. In readiness for the task he rose at six that morning, having made some 
preparations the previous day. He set off to [H]Ovingham to ‘value some wood there’ 
accompanied by Mr Jackson and by someone referred to as T. Smith. William states that 
he worked hard all day; sleeping that night at Mr Hammond’s 30 and then breakfasting at 
Slingsby. That day he carried on valuing until three o’clock. After tea at ‘Ovingham’ he 
returned to Ampleforth with T. Smith and stayed the night there. The following morning 
[Thursday] 19th January William records ‘Settled our acc[oun]ts & got to Easingwold to 
dinner measured some wood this afternoon’. There is no record in the account book of 
any fee for this valuation. Nowhere in the diary are there any clues as to whether the wood 
he measured and/ or valued was standing or felled timber but the references to marking 
timber would indicate that these were trees ready to be felled. 

Standing wood and timber were valuable commodities judging by a valuation taken 
by J. Thompson of Bagby in March 1793 of wood belonging to Earl Fauconberg at 
nearby Newburgh and Old Byland. 31 For example 545 Oak Trees at Old Byland were 
valued at £585 2 s. o d and 74 Ash trees amounted to £30 4 s. o d. making a total of 
£615 65. o d. The complete valuation totals £1,228 6 s. 6 d. It is clear from the valuation 
document that Earl Fauconberg intended to sell the wood on his two estates at Old 
Byland and Newburgh and that that was the reason for the valuation. A written valuation 
like this would have been similar to the ones William was required to submit once he 
had worked out his calculations. 


There is only one record in the diary of William Lockwood being involved in collecting 
rents. This he did when he accompanied Mr Scott of Oulston to Catton. 32 This was not 

27 Catton is a hamlet lying between the villages of Topcliffe and Skipton-on-Swale. 

28 The other Yorkshire village of Catton is near Stamford Bridge in the former East Riding. 

29 Mr Walker was an attorney in Thirsk. See Universal British Direcory , IV, 1798. 

30 Mr Hammond was one of Edward Worsley’s tenants at Hovingham. NYCRO Land Tax, Ryedale 
Wapentake, 1787, Microfilm 196. 

31 NYCRO ZDV Microfilm 1282, Frames 7610—13. 

32 Thomas Scott the younger, of Oulston Hall, NR, gent., later acted as an enclosure commissioner. 



William’s first encounter with Mr Scott, nor his first visit to Catton. He had dined with 
Scott in March 1 796 after he had visited Goxwold to fetch some certificates and the two 
men made a preliminary visit to Catton on [Tuesday] 4th October 1 796 in preparation 
for the valuation of Holme Farm. 

The visit to Catton gave the two men an opportunity to ‘look over the farms there & 
receive rents’. They completed their task in the day and returned home by nine in the 
evening. Following this visit they had obviously planned to go again on [Tuesday] 
1 ith October when William received a ‘countermand’. The countermand was probably 
due to inclement weather for William notes that it rained all day. In spite of the fact that 
it was still raining the next day William went to Oulston to call upon Mr Scott to go to 
Catton. They arrived at Holme Farm at half past nine and engaged themselves in the 
valuation which took all day. William records that he slept at William Prince’s at Catton 
that night. On Thursday they finished their business and ‘set off for Northallerton races’ 
for some light relief. William notes that he ‘saw two Capital heats & got to Easingwold 
by eight’ [pm]. Friday he spent calculating and writing most of the day. On Saturday, 
by eight o’clock in the morning, he had arrived in York ‘carrying Mrs Livesay her Rents’. 
William’s visit to Catton raises several questions with regard to who the people were and 
his connection with them. Mr Scott of Oulston was a farmer 33 and also one of the 
commissioners named in nine separate parliamentary enclosures throughout both the 
North and East Ridings. 34 His son Thomas, who later described himself as ‘Agent’, 35 was 
one of the enclosure commissioners appointed in 1808 for Easingwold along with John 
Tuke of York. 36 It is quite possible that he enlisted William’s help in preparing the Catton 
rental and used him to deliver the rents to Mrs Livesay in York. Additional research has 
shown that Mrs [Rachel] Livesay was a widow who lived in Bootham, York. 37 Her will 
states that, as well as the Catton estate, she also owned estates at Carlton and Islebeck 
[at Thirkleby, near Thirsk]. These three estates she devised to her sister Mary Bell ‘for 
and during the term of her natural life ...’. William Prince’s name has been traced through 
the Land Tax records for Catton for the years 1782 and 1784, being one of the tenants 
of Peter Bell Esq. 38 Peter Bell, it seems, was Mrs Livesay’s brother-in-law to whom she 
entrusted the management of her Catton estate. 

William’s father too, in his position as an attorney, handled estate rents and prepared 
rentals so William himself would be familiar with the necessary procedures. 


According to William Leybourn in his book The Compleat Surveyor , the making of Sun- 
Dials was, ‘a thing I conceive both useful and necessary, as well for the Surveyor, as 
other persons, who may have occasion for the same.’ In other words, the expectation 
that this formed part of the routine work of a surveyor was taken for granted. Amongst 
other skills, it required a certain basic knowledge of ‘Sines, Tangents and proportional 
lines’ and part of Dial-making’s usefulness for training purposes was ‘to show the Use of 

33 - BIHR Coxwold Parish Register 

34 - J. Growther, Enclosure Commissioners and Surveyors of the East Riding, (East Yorkshire Local History Society, 
1986) p. 50. B. English, Yorkshire Enclosure Awards, (University of Hull, 1985). 

35 BIHR Coxwold Parish Register; Baptisms: 

10 May, 1785 Thomas, Scott Thomas, Ann Nicholson Oulston Farmer 
19 August, 1807 Ann, Scott Thomas, Catharine Hamilton Oulston Agent 
36 - An Act for Inclosing Lands in the Township of Easingwold in the North Riding of the County of York’ 
48 Geo III 1808, p. 2 

37 BIHR, Will made 26 August 1803 and proved in the Prerogative Court of York in October 1805. 

38 CRO, Land Tax for Catton, Birdforth Wapentake, Microfilm 413. 



the formentioird Tables and lines in the Calculations of the Requisites and Hour- 
Distances for all manner of Horizontal and Upright Dials.’ 

William certainly tried his hand at this skill. Four specific references occur in his diary 
during the months of May, June and September, 1796. The actual entries read as follows: 

21 May made an Horizontal Dial in the Forenoon 
25 May marked a Dial [but trifled greatest part of the Day] 

8 June drawing and painting a dial 
24 September Finished a dial. 

These tantalisingly brief entries have posed a number of questions, not easily answered. 

Where William learned his skill to craft a horizontal dial or sundial is not known. All 
attempts to find his name in the apprenticeship registers have drawn a blank; however, 
it is clear from other entries in his diary that William had a very wide reading list so it 
is quite possible that he gained his knowledge on the subject of making dials from a book 
such as Leybourn’s and was self-taught. Three references to dials in as many weeks, 
followed by only one further reference before the extant portion of his diary ceases, 
suggests that this may have been a ‘one-off ’ experiment in broadening his sources of 

Whatever may have been the motivation, it is clear that he did not spend much time 
on this particular aspect of a surveyor’s work. Both of the May dials occupied him for 
less than half a day. Similarly, the June dial was drawn and painted after ‘Writing all 
the Forenoon’. In order to construct a simple horizontal dial William would have had to 
have been able to apply both the knowledge of the latitude of a place from which the 
dial would be set up and his mathematical skills. It was necessary to graduate the dial 
plate with lines radiating from the centre to the outer edge or equinoctial line. The 
central line represented the noon line which ran north/south and from this point the 
lines were spaced at 15 degrees for each hour line, seven and a half degrees less if 
the half-hour divisions were to be shown. 39 

Horizontal dials for external use were normally made of brass or bronze and it is 
unlikely that a young attorney’s clerk (for that was his profession at the time of these 
entries) would have been able to afford either a metal cast plate or the necessary tools 
to fashion the lines merely as a recreational activity. One entry in his account book dated 
1 6 June 1797, reveals that William bought a dial from John Preston, bricklayer — a 
friend and neighbour — for i.y. o d. This could have been a second hand one or perhaps 
John Preston provided the basic structure for William to work on. Masons, it seems, were 
qualified to make dials but, because ‘the lineating of the dial plate was a matter of 
science’, mathematical skills were required. 40 

Sundials as well as being made for external use also had an internal or domestic use. 
This latter type could be produced at little cost if made of paper. When William stated 
that he made ‘an horizontal dial in the forenoon’ it is unlikely that this could have been 
anything more than a paper design judging by the time he spent in crafting the dial. 
Also the separate references to marking a dial are suggestive of paper being used rather 
than metals or even wood because of the time spent on the task. 

The reason why William engaged himself in crafting dials is not known. It may be 
that he was working with a professional engraver or clock-maker to make a paper template 
or layout for a garden sundial engraved by another craftsman. In the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries the pocket sundial was very common in much the same way as the 

39 - F. W. Cousins, Sundials a simplified approach by means of the equitorial dial ( 1 969). 

40 - Mrs A. Gatty, The Book of Sundials (1872) p. 15 1. 



wrist-watch is today. 41 Pocket sundials usually contained a compass, the points of which 
were often set out on paper or card, perhaps even hand coloured, displaying an eight 
point rose for instance. In Easingwold at this time there were two clockmakers, 42 one of 
whom was called William Jackson. The engraving, a feature of the sundial, could have 
been done by this Mr Jackson, perhaps the same person who lent William the theodolite. 

The reference to painting a dial could have meant that William stretched his artistic 
talents by involving himself in painting clock dials in addition to making sundials. The 
iron sheet clock dials, came into vogue around 1770, 43 displaying painted rustic scenes 
for example, in the arch and corners of the clock face. These were often the work of a 
local artist who specialised in painting dials. This type of clock face with black painted 
numbers on a painted white background became fashionable because they were easier 
to read than the earlier brass faced clock. Although dial painting provided the local artist 
with extra work, unfortunately painted dials were not normally signed so that, even if an 
example of Lockwood’s work had survived, it would not be possible to positively attribute 
it to him. 


The enclosure process certainly gained momentum in the latter half of the eighteenth 
century and with this process came the need for men who could not only assess the 
quantity of the land with its concomitant requirement for more accurate surveying 
methods but also capable of judging the quality of the land as well. According to Jan 
Crowther ‘Quality men’ were the ones with local knowledge who would carry out a 
valuation but it was the surveyor’s job to measure the land. 44 

There was always the need to value land and property and William had the necessary 
skills for this type of work. The valuation of land could be done in one of two ways: 
either by using the rental as the basis then calculating ‘the value of it at so many years’ 
rents’, 45 or by assessing its potential but the latter method though needed expertise from 
someone who could exercise judgment with regard to the value of land and buildings. 
Lurther, the valuer would have had to take into account the climate and how it could 
affect the value of an estate as well as being a good judge of the different soils. Land and 
property valuations were usually required prior to a sale and it was not unusual to carry 
out a valuation prior to enclosure. The General Enclosure Act of 1801 deemed it necessary 
for a ‘true survey, plan and valuation’ to be carried out prior to enclosure. 46 

William also engaged himself in the business of land measuring. Again this was some- 
thing he did for people in the locality; measuring ‘some land’ — ‘a parcel of land’ or ‘a 
field or two’ — were the phrases he generally used. On two occasions he records where 
the land was; on the first (19th September 1796) he took his dog and gun with him to 
measure some land at the White House which is a little more than a mile out of town 
northwards situated beside the Thirsk Road. He ‘shot a brace and a half of partridges’. 
The second occasion occurred one month later on 19th October and took him across 
the fields to Thomas Kitson’s farm near Craike. This task he completed in the day. 

4L D. J. Bryden, Sundials and Related Instruments Catalogue 6 (The Whipple Museum of the History of 
Science, 1988) 

42 - B. Loomes, Yorkshire Clockmakers (Dalesman books, 1972), pp. 89 and 104. 

43 B. I Hornes, Yorkshire Clockmakers (Dalesman Books, 1972) p. 17 

44 - J Crowther, Enclosure Commissioners & Surveyors of the East Riding (East Yorkshire Local History Society, 
1986) p. 10. 

45 - R. E. Brown, The Book of the Landed Estate (Edinburgh 1869), pp. 316-33. 

46 - F. M. L. Thompson, Chartered Surveyors: the growth of a profession (1968), p. 38. 



William had been to look at the land in the late afternoon of the previous day after 
which he wrote up his ‘observations’ that evening before going to bed. 

Although the measurements and resultant acreage of Kitson’s farm do not appear to 
have survived, it has proved possible to reconstruct the arithmetic of William’s calculations 
from two sets of rough jottings made on the interleaving of his diary. These appear facing 
the entries for January 1796 and Christmas 1796. 

An examination of these jottings shows that the linear measurements of links according 
to Gunter’s four-pole chain are multiplied to give ‘square links’ which, when divided by 
10,000 (100 x 100) show the overall acreage. The remainder can then be converted to 
roods and perches by multiplying the quotient first by four and then by 40 respectively. 


(i) Driffield 

Surveys were required for a variety of reasons: prior to a rent review, before the sale of 
land, after the death of a land owner, or with a valuation before a proposed enclosure. 
Here the surveyors often worked under the supervision of the enclosure commissioners 
or some independent person. William recorded in some detail three separate surveys that 
he conducted and these will be described in chronological order as each one is different. 

The first recorded survey required William to travel to Driffield in the East Riding. 
This necessitated him leaving Easingwold on [Saturday] 19th March 1796 at six o’clock 
in the morning. He travelled on horseback via Yearsley and probably Malton although 
this town is only noted on the return journey. He ‘got to Driffield to dine about half past 
one’; the journey took him seven and a half hours. He does not mention any stop en- 
route for breakfast. William met a Mr Horseley in Driffield with whom he spent the 
evening when his supper consisted of ‘Apple Py and Milk’ before going to bed at about 
half past eight. On Sunday he went to church in the morning and attended the Baptist 
Chapel in the afternoon. That evening William supped with Mr Horseley and Mr Bass 
of Hull. The next day [Monday] 21st March, William was ‘Busy all the day planning 
and surveying’. After finishing his work, he ‘returned to sup with Mr Horseley and Mr 
Otley’. The following day after breakfasting with Mr Otley William travelled home. He 
reached Malton by 1 1 in the morning and was back in Easingwold by four o’clock in 
the afternoon. The survey plans (if there were any) may well have been drawn on site 
but no mention is made of any planning being done in connection with the Driffield 
survey after William’s return home. 

It is not clear from the diary who exactly commissioned the Driffield survey although 
one assumes that it was probably Mr Horseley. The purpose of the survey is not stated 
either, or why William was required to travel all the way to Driffield for one day’s work 
when there were probably local men who could have done the work. Nothing is known 
of Mr Horseley but Mr Otley was found to be a grocer and mercer operating from 
premises in Driffield market place. 47 

(ii) Mr Nelson 

William’s second survey took place nearer home in the adjoining parish of Craike. 
Fortunately in this survey William states precisely whose lands he was going to survey. 
He began his work on [Monday] 7th November 1796 and states that the survey was to 
be of ‘... Mr Nelson’s Estates there’. The first day he spent ‘in preparing my apparatus 
for the purpose ...’. The apparatus he refers to probably consisted of a plane table, a 

47 Universal British Directory, III, 1793. 



portable surveying instrument, which would need to be positioned correctly for him to 
record the necessary bearings. The next day he was rained off so he resumed his work 
on Wednesday after leaving home at nine o’clock that morning; he surveyed until four 
in the afternoon. On Thursday he was ‘engaged in taking an eye view of ye rest of the 
Lands to be surveyed’. This task appears to have taken the best part of the day to 
complete because he did not dine until four o’clock, when he went to Ricabys. 48 Friday 
happened to be ‘our great hiring day’ in Easingwold so William stayed at home ‘to 
entertain the various descriptions of People we had invited in’. Saturday he spent drawing 
plans and resumed his surveying work on the following Monday (14th November), 
working until three o’clock in the afternoon. He did the same on Tuesday, surveying 
until two o’clock, then after dinner he measured a held or two. The survey of Mr Nelson’s 
Estates took five days and was completed by the 17th November. Between the 18th and 
the 24th of November William was engaged in drawing plans for five more occasional 
days. This survey coupled with all the planning was obviously a big undertaking for it 
took a total of 1 1 days to complete. According to his account book William received £5 
from Mr Nelson (Reverend Nelson’s brother) on 16 June 1797 for conducting this survey. 

Additional research has revealed that the reason for this survey was because of the 
death of the Reverend Thomas Darcy Nelson, clerk and Rector of Holtby near York. In 
his will made 3rd August 1793 and proved in the Prerogative Court of York in July 1799 
he names his estate at Craike as one of several estates that he owned in the villages 
around York. 

(iii) Mr Wailes 

William’s third survey, of William Wailes’ estate in Easingwold began on [Saturday] 
25th February 1797. This survey was also for probate. The day after Mr Wailes died, 
[Monday] 31st October 1796, William recorded that he ‘Arose this Morning full of 
anxiety about the death of Mr Wailes who sho[ul]d be appointed ‘Cl[er]k of ye Peace’. 49 

According to the diary Wailes owned Cock Farm, which is still extant today (1995), 
situated beside the Thirsk Road on the northern outskirts of the town. William surveyed 
the farm itself first on [Saturday] 25th February and finished the task the same day. He 
did not attend church in the forenoon of Sunday because of ‘drawing etc.’. William 
resumed his survey on the Monday following and continued surveying on a daily basis 
all that week. His survey of Wailes’ estate took him seven days to complete and a further 
day and a half in drawing plans afterwards making a total of two full days spent in 

Wailes’s will states that he had land and property in Northallerton and nearby 
Brompton in addition to lands at Danby upon Wiske and Husthwaite, 50 a village lying 
to the north of Easingwold; but interestingly, it does not mention any land or property 
in Easingwold. 51 William stated in his account book that he received a payment of two 
guineas for this survey on 7th July 1797. He was obviously out of pocket as a result as 
his account book also reveals a note made on 27 December 1798 that he was due to 
receive another £4 as Wailes’s expenses. 

There is no mention of any assistance with the practical side of the above survey nor 
for the other two he conducted; neither is there any other mention of his apparatus 

48 Thomas Ricaby lived in Craike. 

49 Diary entry for 31st October [1796] ‘Arose the Morning full of anxiety about the death of Mr Wailes 
who sho[ul]d be appointed Cl[er]k of ye Peace ...’ 

50 - ‘Mr Wailes buried at Hustwait.’ A. W. Dyson, (ed). William Metcalfe — His Book (Easingwold 1980) p. 40. 
51 BIHR Probate Records, Prerogative Will, May 1797. 



except on the one occasion at Craike. The assumption is that all of William’s surveys 
involved the use of a chain for measuring. 


‘Planning’ or making a cartographic record of a survey was a very important part of the 
surveyor’s work. Often the map or plan is all that is left of a survey for the historian to 
work on. William Lockwood’s diary holds a record of three specific references to surveys, 
two of which necessitated drawing plans and have been related above. 52 However, there 
are other references to planning which have not been covered, but which are equally 
important. Each of these specific references is unrelated to anything that immediately 
comes before or after it in the text. Analysis of the diary entries set alongside other local 
sources, viz four extant plans of the town fields of Easingwold has now established a 
connection between these two sets of documents thus confirming that they are attributable 
to William Lockwood. 

In the diary there are six references spread over a nine month period telling the story 
of William’s ‘planning’ process. He introduces the subject on [Thursday] 30th January 
1796 stating that he was ‘engaged in my own appartments with drawing plans’. These 
six diary references, when isolated, helped to clarify and to confirm the fact that William, 
at some time prior to 30th January that year, had conducted a survey of Easingwold’s 
four town fields. They record the progress of his cartographic work. 

The first two references refer simply to drawing plans, then by the month of June, 
William states that he was ‘drawing and finishing my plans’. In the penultimate entry he 
inserts the words ‘of the fields’. Finally, on 6th October he says ‘finished my plans of the 
fields’. Throughout these months he carried on with his various other duties whilst 
working on the plans as time and/ or his inclination permitted. In the absence of any 
held books that William might have produced like those in the Fairbanks collection 53 the 
plans together with the diary entries go a long way to confirm that William was probably 
the surveyor and almost certainly the first known cartographer of Easingwold’s town 
fields a full decade prior to parliamentary enclosure. 

Interestingly, contained within the Fairbank Collection there is a printed pocket-diary 
covering the year 1785 and, like William Lockwood, the diarist (William Fairbank the 
second, 1730—1801) also gives an insight into his professional life through his daily record. 
He followed in his father’s footsteps to become both a schoolmaster and a surveyor. 54 
Their surveys were conducted outdoors on the land, the survey being made on one day 
and mapped on a later day, either in the home or in the office. The Fairbanks’ plans 
were drawn in a pocket book using pen and ink, unlike William Lockwood who introduced 
colour into his plans. 

Further evidence that the plans were the work of William Lockwood comes from the 
plans themselves. Three of the plans are signed as follows: 

1. Craike Field is signed ‘WL May 1796’ in tiny lettering hardly visible to the naked 
eye and merged into the bottom of a hedge drawn around the cartouche with no 
record of the field’s acreage; 

2. Church and Mill Field plans both contain the initials ‘WL 1797’ within a different 
style of cartouche along with the fields’ recorded acreage; 

3. Stone Field is both undated and unsigned but the calligraphy and the style is of a 
piece with the other three plans. 

52 - (1) The Driffield survey: (2) Mr Nelson’s Estate at Craike: (3) Mr Wailes’s Estate at Easingwold. 

53 - F. W. Hall, The Fairbanks of Sheffield 1688-1848 (Sheffield 1932). 

54 - Ibid. p. 7. 



4. Church field — underneath the cartouche, are the cartographer’s words, only visible 
with a magnifying glass, ‘W. Lockwood’s Delin’. 

The initials and the signature are sufficient evidence that the plans are attributable to 
William. The purpose of the plans, though not stated in the diary, appears to be to 
record the owners and/ or occupiers of the residual amount of land still farmed in strips 
lying within the town fields since each strip is numbered although there is no 
accompanying terrier to provide a key to the numbers. 

The plans do not have a linear scale and each orientation compass is of a different 
design. They are in manuscript form and as such are William’s original pieces of artwork. 
Each plan is coloured with what remains of the field boundaries outlined in blue. Red 
is used to denote flatt boundaries whereas the remaining strips are coloured in yellow. 
The calligraphy is displayed minuscule and majuscule script contemporary with that used 
on enclosure awards. His lettering, thought to be ‘the most difficult skill to master’^ 5 is 
clear and consistent on all four plans. Each plan exhibits an individual cartouche with 
the field name and (in three cases) another bearing the acres, roods and perches, his 
initials and the year. There appears to be no consistency about where on the plans the 
cartouches are placed other than where William could fit them in. 

It is most likely the plans were commissioned as part of the pre-enclosure process in 
Easingwold. John Tuke, land surveyor, writing in 1800 was of the opinion that: ‘In the 
best parts of this [North] Riding, few open or common fields now remain, nearly the 
whole having long since been inclosed; ,..’. 56 In actual fact seven villages within a ten- 
mile radius of Easingwold had enclosed their open fields by private act between 1756 
and 1 800. 57 After 1800 a further six villages 58 plus Easingwold enclosed their open fields 
under private act, and finally, one further village, Huby (near Easingwold) enclosed its 
open fields under the General Act of 1836. Tuke’s statement implies that the villages 
around Easingwold and the town itself were not included, by him, in ‘the best parts’ of 
the North Riding. 

In spite of the fact that Easingwold’s open fields had been surveyed sometime before 
1796/7 when the plans were drawn it was to be a further 1 1 years before the enclosure 
process finally did get under way. 


In the meantime however, the diary does contain another record of William’s involvement 
in the pre-enclosure process when he apparently gave assistance with the township valu- 
ation. When first reading the diary it is not readily apparent what William’s role was in 
the township valuation; neither is there any indication why there needed to be a valuation, 
nor who commissioned it. Only when all the valuation references are taken together does 
the picture become a little clearer. 

William first mentions his association with the valuation on [Friday] 10th March, 1 797. 
On that evening he was ‘Employed till 12 o’clock writing for the valuers & arranging 
their papers etc two nights’. 

The following day he was ‘Busy with the valuers all the forenoon dined with them ...’. 

In the next related entry made on the 25th March William wrote that he was ‘Busy 
in the office all day time and engaged every evening this week with Scott & Hartas 

55 - I. H. Adams, (ed). Papers on Peter May Land Surveyor 1749—1793 (Edinburgh, 1979) p. xix. 

56 J. Tuke, General View of the Agriculture of the North Riding of Yorkshire (1800) p. 90. 

57 Sutton-on-Forest 1756: Stillington 1766: Sheriff Hutton and West Filling 1769, Haxby 1769, Tholthorpe 
and Flawith 1800. W. E. Tate and M. Turner, Domesday of Enclosures , (Reading, 1978) pp. 294-301. 

58 Skelton and Overton 1806, Alne 1807, Helperby 1809, Tollerton 1810, Shipton 1812, ibid. 



respecting the Valuation of our Township supt (sic) with them & drank a glass of wine 
and water and smoked a pipe every night’. 

A further entry made on the 30th March reveals that he spent part of the day (he does 
not state which part) ‘examining deeds etc supt at Jno Prestons with Hartas & Scott 
finished our business by 1 1 smoked a pipe and drank a glass of wine 

This is the first time that the diarist introduces the names of those involved in the 
valuation and from his entries it seems that they were acting as independent valuers for 
the township. William, of course, knew Scott but this is the first mention of Hartas in 
the diary and, so far, all attempts to trace this person have failed. 

Taking the story a stage further a diary entry for the 2nd April states: ‘employed myself 
in devising plans for regulating our valuation’. 

It would seem from this remark that the valuers, Scott and Hartas, were using William 
and his abundance of local knowledge about the people and their landownership, to 
make any necessary adjustments to the overall valuation. 

Furthermore, William’s role in the valuation becomes clearer when he states that from 
the 4th to the 8th April he worked solidly all week ‘writing and settling our val[uatio]n 
Acc[oun]ts till 12 o’clock every night’. 

Then likewise on the 14th April he was ‘engaged until 1 o’clock in the morning’ and 
similarly on the 15th (being Easter Saturday) he was ‘up by 5 & worked all day till 
3 o’clock on Easter Sunday morning’. 

Finally, on the 16th April, William had ‘Compleated all the Acc[oun]ts this [day?] 
and made them ready for inspection’. 

It is interesting to observe that William must have breathed a sigh of relief when he 
had completed the accounting part of the township valuation for he spent the next day 
(17th April) ‘Engaged at Jno Prestons all Day drank great part of a bottle of wine in the 
Evening & got to bed by half past ten’. 

The following day he must have shared breakfast with the valuers as his entry for the 
day records that 

After Breakfast I parted with friends Hartas & Scott leaving me to receive the amount of their bill 
£154.15 & to discharge all Expenses attending the Business (but not till we had finished three 
excellent Bishops for the last farewell) attended the meet[in]g and supper at Carvers. 

Eleven days later on [Saturday] 29th April William notes that he 

Finished my new Val[uatio]n book and walked to Oulston to examine it with Mr Scott settled all 
the bus[ine]ss and returned home by six o’clock being very wet and dirty walking. 

The last related valuation entry in the diary (5th May) shows a very human touch for 
it records that William, while out walking with his friends Cock and Scott, as far as 
Hanover House ‘... [they] talked together ab[ou]t the Rumours which were spread about 
the charge for the valuation etc met a returned chaise and had a pleasant ride home’. 

Evidence found in the ‘Valuation Book’ itself confirms William’s diary entry and is 
cited in full as follows: 

Easingwold 1st May 1797 

The owners & Occupiers of Lands within the Township of Easingwold 

To Willm Hartis (sic) & Thos Scott For Valuing the Township of Easingwold with the Houses & 
Tyth’s including all Expenses attending the same containing in the Whole 6190 Acres at 6d per 

Acre £ i 54 - i 5 -°- 

Here is confirmation that the valuation was of the township and the cost involved is 
the same as William’s diary entry and further that the valuers were indeed Thomas Scott 
and William Hartas. 



There is no clear record of exactly how much William should have been paid for his 
part in the valuation but his account book for 28 December 1797 shows that he had £21 
left after a valuation payment. During the course of the following year he entered two 
more receipts, one (13th Jan) from RB’ of ‘Valuation money in his hands £1 ij. od .’ 
and the other (22nd May) from ‘MrJ’ of ‘Valuation money £3 is. od.' making a total of 
£25 2S. od. 


An analysis of William Lockwood’s working days over the period covered by the diary 
reveals that only 5 1 per cent of his time was spent on legal matters and a further 40 per 
cent was absorbed by surveying tasks of various kinds. Small wonder that he experienced 
‘inexpressible grief’ at the change of profession imposed upon him by his father. It is not 
known whether William ever made a full transition from surveyor to attorney — the 
only subsequent reference that has been traced sees him acting as enclosure commissioner 
for nearby Kilburn, the award for which was made in 1829. 59 However, although the 
diary covers only fifteen months of William Lockwood’s working life, it could hardly have 
been a better period from which to illustrate how one local (and previously unknown) 
surveyor put into practice the wide variety of services expounded by Leybourn’s text 
book. Mensuration, timber valuations, rentals, dials, land measurement, surveys, cartogra- 
phy and land valuation — they are all here in the diary of an attorney’s clerk — yet how 
easy it would have been to miss the potential of that diary had it not been re-united with 
the plans of the town fields and the township valuation. 


Manuscript Sources 

Leeds, Yorkshire Archaeological Society 

Four Plans of Easingwold down Fields 1796/7 MD 382/6 382/9 

Northallerton, County Record Office 
Register of Deeds, Register to Places 

Land Tax for the Wapentakes of Birdforth and Ryedale Microfilms 413 and 196 
Letters Patent for Easingwold Market, DDA 17 Microfilm 1601 
Newburgh Estate Papers, ZDV Microfilm 1282 

York, Borthwick Institute for Historical Research 
Parish Records — Lockwood Diary & Account Book, Eas. PR. 241 
Parish Records — Cox. PR 5, Baptismal & Marriage Registers 
Probate Register and Wills of the Prerogative Court 

Original Documents in Private Ownership 
Easingwold, Township Valuation Book 

Printed Primary Sources 

Borthwick Lists and Indexes 10, compiled by E. B. Newsome, The Archbishop of York’s Marriage Bonds and 
Allegations 1 76 5-- 1 779 

Darlington & Stockton Times, 9 March 1983 
House of Commons British Sessional Papers 

M. Winton, Universal British Directory 1793-1798, 3, Pt I, (facsimile text edn, King’s Lynn 1993) 

G. D. Lumb (ed.) The Register of the Parish Church of All Saints Easingwold. Co. York. 1399-1812 (Yorkshire Parish 
Register Society 1916) 

The Parish Registers of Easingwold. Raskelf. and Myton upon Swale 1813-1837 (The Publications of The Yorkshire 
Archaeological Society Parish Register Section, 1983) transcribed by the Late Norah Gurney and Others, 

Universal British Directory, IV, 1798, Microfilm, Towns E.-M. 

Yorkshire Post, 15 August 1981 

59 - B. English, Yorkshire Enclosure Awards (University of Hull, 1985) p. 417. 



Specific — Surveyors/ Surveying 

Adams, G., Geometrical and Graphical Essays , (1803). 

Adams, I. H., Papers on Peter May Land Surveyor 1749 1793 , (Edinburgh, 1979). 

Bennett, J. A. and Brown, O., The Compleat Surveyor , (Whipple Museum of the History of Science, 
Cambridge, 1982). 

Cousins, F. W., Sundials a simplified approach by means of the equatorial dial (1969). 

Gatty, Mrs Alfred, The Book of Sundials , (1872). 

Hall, F. W., The Fairbanks of Sheffield 1688-1848 , (Sheffield, 1932). 

Harris, J., Globes and Orrery , (12th edn 1783). 

Feybourn, W., The Complete Art of Surveying , (final edn, 1722). 

McConnell, A., Instrument Makers to the World , (York, 1992). 

Raistrick, A., Ouakers in Science and Industry , (1949). 

Rathbourne, A., The Surveyor , (1616). 

Richeson, A. W., English Land Measuring to 1800: Instruments and Practice , (1966). 

Surveyors and Map Makers , Catalogue of an Exhibition held in Feeds City Art Gallery, June, 1955. 

Thompson, F. M. F., Chartered Surveyors: the growth of a profession, (1969). 


Taylor, E. G. R., ‘The Surveyor’, Economic History Review , 17 (1947) pp. 121-33. 

Hull, P. F., ‘Some Bedfordshire Surveyors of the Eighteenth Century’, Journal of the Society of Archivists, 1 (1955) 
PP- 3 1 ~ 37 • 

Eden, P., "Land Surveyors 1550-1850’, Norfolk Archaeology, 35 and 36 (1973 and 1975) pp. 119-48. 

Preece, P., ‘Some eighteenth-century chain surveyors: the work of the Beddings of Bucklebury, Berkshire’, 
The Local Historian, 23 (1993) pp. 218—27. 

General Books 

Brown, R. E., The Book of the Landed Estate, (Edinburgh, 1869). 

Catalogue of the Contents of The Library of The Yorkshire Law Society, (York, 1886). 

Clarkes, New Law List, (1803—06). 

Clarkson, T., A Portraiture of Quakerism, 3 vols (1806). 

Cobb, W., A History of Grays of York 1693-1988, (York, 1989). 

Crowther, J., Enclosure Commissioners and Surveyors of the East Riding, (East Yorkshire Local History Society, 1986). 
Dyson, A. W., (ed.) William Metcalfe — His Book, (Easingwold, 1980). 

Eden, P., (ed.) Dictionary of Land Survevors and Local Cartographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1 330-1830, 

Supplement. (1979). 

English, B., Yorkshire Enclosure Awards, (University of Hull, 1985). 

Hodgkiss, A. G., Discovering Antique Maps, (Shire, 1977). 

Hughes, J., The New Law List, (1800-02). 

Kirk H., Portrait of a profession: solicitors, 1100 to the present day, (1976). 

Loomes, B., Yorkshire Clockmakers, (Dalesman Books, 1972). 

Lynam, E., British Maps and Map Makers, (1947). 

Mumford, A. A., The Manchester Grammar School, 1 31 3-191 5, (1919). 

Oliver, T. and Pilbeam, E., Ordnance Survey Map Makers to Britain since 1791, (HMSO, 1992). 

Richardson, M., (ed.) AutobiograDhy of Mrs Fletcher , (1875). 

Robson, R., The Attorney in Eighteenth Century England, (Cambridge, 1959). 

Smith, D., Maps and Plans for the Local Historian and Collector, (1988). 

Tate, W. E. and Turner, M. E., Domesday of Enclosures, (Reading, 1978). 

Tuke, J., General View of Agriculture of the Agriculture of the North Riding of Yorkshire, (1800). 


Beresford, M. W., ‘Commissioners of Enclosure’, Economic History Review, 16, (1946) pp. 130-40. 

Rodgers, W. S., ‘West Riding Commissioners of Enclosure, 1729-1850’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 40 
( 1 962) pp. 401-19. 

Tate, W. E., ‘Some Unexplored Records of the Enclosure Movement’, English Historical Review, 57, (1942) 
pp. 250-63. 

Tate, W. E., ‘Oxfordshire Enclosure Commissioners, 1737 1850’, Journal of Modern Historv, 23, (1951) 
PP- 1 37-45- 

Turner, M. E., ‘The Cost of Parliamentary Enclosure in Buckinghamshire’, Agricultural History Review, 21 (1973) 
PP- 35-46. 

Turner, M. E., ‘Enclosure Commissioners and. Buckinghamshire Parliamentary Enclosure’, Agricultural History 
Review, 25 (1977) pp. 120-40. 

Turner, M. E. and Wray, T., ‘A Survey of Sources for Parliamentary Enclosure: The House of Commons’ 
Journal and Commissioners Working Papers’, Archives, 19 (1991) pp. 257-88. 

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. yi, iggg 



By Spence Galbraith 

During recent research into the early life of Dr John Snow (1813—1858), a famous 
epidemiologist and anaesthetist, 1 information about the life of Dr Joseph Warburton of 
Pateley Bridge and his family was obtained. This paper is presented so that this material 
is available to local historians and others, who may wish to undertake further research 
into this well known local medical family. 

WIBSEY 1786-1807 

The date of birth of Joseph Warburton could not be found. His baptism, however, is 
recorded on 18th April 1786 at Wibsey Chapel, Wibsey, near Bradford, Yorkshire, now 
known as Holy Trinity, Low Moor. The baptismal register shows that he was the son of 
Edward Warburton, weaver, woolstapler, woolcomber and stayman. His grandfather, 
also named Joseph Warburton (1721 — 1801) and his grandmother Sarah had at least three 
children, namely, Margaret (1746—1820), Edward (1751-1820) and James Threapland 
( i 755 - i 820 ). 2 

Wibsey was then a small West Yorkshire village on the southern hill-side of Bradford 
dale. At the end of the eighteenth century the mineral wealth of the neighbourhood had 
begun to be exploited and by the 1840s much of the land had been despoiled and covered 
with shale hills, the refuse of coal and ironstone mines. The nearby Low Moor Ironstone 
and Coal Company, which was established in 1 790, became the most renowned ironworks 
in Yorkshire. 3 By the twentieth century, however, the village of Wibsey had been included 
within the City of Bradford and become a desirable suburb of the expanding city. It was 
no longer a mining district and the shale hills had been concealed and built upon. 

The Warburton family originally came to Wibsey from Cambridge in the seventeenth 
century and intermarried with the local family of Threaplands, becoming a well-known 
local medical family. Their practice in Wibsey continued for at least 150 years, from the 
eighteenth century until 1936 (see note 2 above). Such medical dynasties in which success- 
ive members of the same family practised for a century or more were not unusual, the 
sons and nephews of medical men often following in their relatives’ footsteps. 4 James 
Threapland Warburton, Joseph’s uncle, was an apothecary in Wibsey. A notebook which 
survives was first used by Edward, Joseph’s father, for his weaving business and later by 
James Threapland in which he recorded visits to his patients and his accounts and 
prescriptions (see notes 2 and 3 above). 

Nothing is known about Joseph’s education until he was apprenticed at around the 
age of 14 years to his uncle James Threapland Warburton in about 1800 for a period of 

L Richardson, B. W. The Life of John Snow, md. in Snow, J. Chloroform and other Anaesthetics (London, 
Churchill, 1858). 

2 Carpenter, S. H. ‘A Wibsey Medical Family’, The Bradford Antiquary: the Journal of the Bradford Historical and 
Antiquarian Society , 1989, 3rd Series, 4, pp. 53-61. 

3 - Carpenter, S. H. The Manor of Wibsey, the Town and District (Bradford, 1992). 

4 - Loudon, I. Medical Care and the General Practitioner iygo 18 go (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1986). 



seven years. 5 This young age was then the usual time to begin an apprenticeship to a 
surgeon-apothecary. Joseph’s family apprenticeship would have had the advantage of the 
premium for a relative usually being waived or greatly reduced to a token amount. 
Furthermore, an even greater advantage of family apprenticeships was that the son or 
nephew, after completing his training, was often introduced into the established practice 
without the expense of buying a partnership (see note 4 above). In Joseph’s circumstance, 
however, this did not happen. In 1807, after completing his apprenticeship, he left the 
Wibsey practice to join the practice of a Dr Strother in Pateley Bridge, 6 at first as his 
assistant. The reason that Joseph did not join his uncle’s practice may have been because 
James Threapland wished his own son, Joseph’s cousin, to follow him in the practice. 
This son, born in 1794, was also named James Threapland and did, indeed, succeed his 
father in due course. 


The early nineteenth century was a period of medical reform during which the unqualified 
‘apothecary’ or ‘surgeon’ evolved into a qualified and licensed surgeon-apothecary who 
later became known as a general practitioner (see note 4 above). Before the Apothecaries 
Act of 1815, medical education was diverse and practice unregulated. Nevertheless, a 
scheme for the training of surgeon-apothecaries had gradually emerged. This usually 
included apprenticeship to a respected apothecary, attendance at courses of lectures and 
a period of attachment to a hospital. After the Act a similar formal scheme became the 
compulsory national training programme for apothecaries in England and Wales. This 
comprised apprenticeship to an established practitioner for at least five years, then a 
period of hospital training and attendance at prescribed courses of lectures before the 
student was permitted to sit the examination for a licence to practice. This examination 
was the responsibility of the Society of Apothecaries of London and the qualification 
thereby granted was Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries (lsa). Many students also 
sat the examination for Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (mrcs). 

Following the Apothecaries Act, all those who were principals in practice before 1815 
were exempted from licensing and were known as ‘pre-1815’ medical men. For example, 
Joseph’s uncle, James Threapland Warburton, was a pre-1815 medical man and had no 
formal medical qualifications. Those in training or working as assistants in 1815, however, 
were required to complete the new training and sit the lsa examination. Hence Joseph 
Warburton later took time off from Dr Strother’s practice in Pateley Bridge in order to 
qualify. On 23rd January 1816, Joseph was admitted as a pupil of Mr R. C. Headington, 
Surgeon to the London Hospital (Fig. 1), for a term of six months. 7 Joseph probably 
chose the London Hospital because of Mr Headington’s high reputation. He was born 
in 1774 or 1775, elected Assistant Surgeon at the hospital on 2nd May 1797 and full 
Surgeon on 5th June 1799. A bust of Mr Headington was discovered recently at the 
London Hospital. 8 In 1816, he was known as a good operator but as early as 1804 was 
renowned for his lectures, some of which were reported in the Lancet. He was later 
President of the Royal College of Surgeons and a member of the Committee of the 
College on surgical education which proposed establishment of the new grade of Fellows 

5 - Guildhall Library, London. Ms. 8241/ 1, p. 86. 

6 - Ward, C. W. ‘Notes Recorded by Dr Ward of Drs H. Craven, Petch and C. W. Ward, Fog Close House, 
27th July 1952’, Ms. Nidderdale Museum, Pateley Bridge. 

7 - The Register of Surgeon’s Pupils at The London Hospital 1785 1830. The Royal London Hospital 
Archives. Ms. MC/S/1/2. 

8 Evans, J., Blandy, J. ‘Richard Clement Headington 1774-1831’, The London Hospital Gazette 1992, 19, 
PP- 32 - 34 - 



Fig. i. Engraving of the London Hospital, c. 1829. 

of the College (see note 8 above). Ever since, Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons 
(frcs) has remained a standard higher qualification for surgeons in England and Wales. 
He died in 1831. 

During his training at the London Hospital, Joseph Warburton attended lectures in 
chemistry, materia medica, anatomy and physiology as well as the theory and practice 
of medicine. At the end of his training, the London Hospital House Committee Minutes 
of a meeting held on 25th June 1816 recorded that he was granted a Certificate of 
Attendance. Two days after obtaining this certificate, Joseph Warburton passed the exam- 
ination for the lsa and then presumably returned to Pateley Bridge. Unfortunately, 
neither the London Hospital records nor those of the Society of Apothecaries provide 
any further information about his family, his home or where he stayed while in London 
in 1816. 


Pateley Bridge is a small market town in the valley of the River Nidd in Yorkshire, 
situated about 14 miles from Harrogate and 12 miles from Ripon (Fig. 2). There is one 
narrow main street extending from the hills in the east, westward to the bridge over the 
Nidd, much as it was in the early nineteenth century. 9 It remains the principal town in 
upper Nidderdale, an area which then included the parishes of Stonebeck Up, Stonebeck 
Down, Fountains Earth, Bishopside (in which Pateley Bridge was situated) and Brewerley. 
The upper valley had a population of just under 4,500 at the 1831 census. 10 The major 
sources of employment in the area were in agriculture, in lead mining in the hills to the 
west of Pateley Bridge and in the spinning and weaving of flax. The flax mills were 
located along the river below the town, the largest of which was at Glasshouses owned 
by the Metcalfe family, one of the leading families in the neighbourhood. 

9 - Grainge, W. Nidderdale; or an Historical, Topographical and Descriptive Sketch of the Valley of the Nidd (Pateley 
Bridge, Thomas Thorpe, 1863). 

10 - Jennings, B. (ed.) A History of Nidderdale, 3rd edn (Pateley Bridge, Local History Group, 1992). 



Fig. 2. Photograph of Pateley Bridge, c. 1900. 

When Joseph Warburton arrived in Pateley Bridge in 1807 he is likely to have resided 
at Dr Strother’s home. After qualifying, Joseph became a partner but the date of the 
partnership is not known. The earliest recording of the partnership to be found was in 
the Baines Directory of Yorkshire in 1822. 11 Joseph married a local girl on Christmas 
Day 1815, shortly before he went to London in January 1816 to complete his training 
and to sit his medical examinations — 

Joseph Warburton of this Parish (Pateley Bridge) and Harriet Thackery of the Parish aforesaid 
were married in this chapel by Licence this 25th December 1815 by me Wm Neeson Minister. 
This marriage was solemnized between us Joseph Warburton, Harriet Thackery, in the presence 
of Wm Kettlewell and Thos Richardson. 12 

The wedding would have been at St Mary’s Church, Pateley Bridge. The present St 
Cuthbert’s Church, which replaced St Mary’s, was not built until 1827. 13 Joseph ma Y 
have taken his young bride with him to London on a working honeymoon when he 
started ‘walking the wards’ at the London Hospital on 26th January 1816. When he 
returned to Pateley Bridge in June of 1816 it is likely that the couple set up house on 
their own. Joseph and Harriet had at least three children. Their first child, a son Joseph 
named after his father, was born in 1816 and baptised on 27th October that year. Their 
second child was a daughter, Anna, who was probably born in about 1820. Their second 
son, Edward Warburton, was born in 1822 and baptised on 25th October in the same 
year. No records of any other children in the family were found. 

1L Baines, E. The History, Directory and Gazetteer of the County of York, Vol. 2, East and North Ridings (1823). 

12 - N(orth) Y(orkshire) C(ounty) R(ecord) O(flice), Northallerton, Pateley Bridge Marriage Register 1815. 

13 - Swires, M. The Church of St Mary Pateley Bridge. Ms. Nidderdale Museum, Pateley Bridge. 




John Snow was born in York on 15th March 1813. Little is known of his early education, 
except that he went to a private school in York. In 1827, he began his medical training 
as an apprentice to William Hardcastle in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Here, in 1832, he 
gained experience of cholera in the mining village of Killingworth, soon after the disease 
had entered the country. He left Dr Hardcastle’s practice in 1833 and worked as assistant 
to Dr Watson in Burnopfield, County Durham for 12 months before joining Joseph 
Warburton in Pateley Bridge, probably in the autumn of 1834 — 

Leaving Burnop Lield in 1834-35, he revisited his native place, York; made a short stay, and 
thence to the half-inaccessible village called Pately Bridge, in Yorkshire, to assistant it (this is as 
printed in Snow’s book but, probably should read ‘to an assistantship’) with Mr Warburton, surgeon 
there (see note 1 above). 

It is not known why Snow chose to become an assistant rather than follow the usual 
course for a young apothecary of continuing his training in hospital and attending lectures 
so that he could sit the lsa examination. Ellis 14 suggested that Snow, who came from a 
poor family, was likely to have been short of money and wished to earn enough to 
continue his medical education in London. He was apparently unhappy in his first assist- 
antship in the Burnopfield practice and consequently probably decided to move away as 
soon as his contract allowed, after 12 months (see note 14 above). Perhaps he decided 
on a rural practice in Yorkshire because a vacancy was available and it was not as far 
away from home as County Durham. He may even have known of the reputation of the 
Warburtons of Bradford and Pateley Bridge and so sought a post with them. 

In Pateley Bridge, Snow would have lived in the Warburton family home and surgery, 
Log Close House, which had been built for Joseph Warburton in 1829 ( see n °t e 6 above). 
This remained the house of the local doctor until after the Second World War and still 
stands today close to St Cuthbert’s Church (Fig. 3). It seems likely that by the time Snow 
arrived in the practice Dr Strother had retired. Indeed, it may have been Dr Strother’s 
retirement which prompted Joseph to take on an assistant at least until his eldest son 
had qualified. 

The household at Fog Close House, when Snow joined the practice, would have 
consisted of Mr Joseph Warburton and his wife Harriet and their children. Their son 
Joseph, aged about 18 years, was then apprenticed to his father, having begun his appren- 
ticeship in 1831 (see below). Anna aged about 15 years and Edward aged about 12 years 
were both probably still at school. In addition, the Warburtons would have employed 
living-in servants. Seven years later, at the 1841 census taken on Sunday 6th June, the 
census enumerator’s return listed seven people in the household at Fog Close House. 
Joseph Warburton aged 50 years, Surgeon Apothecary, and Harriet his wife aged 45 
years, Joseph aged 20 years who had qualified in 1837 and was in practice with his father, 
Anna aged 20 years had no recorded occupation although she later became a teacher 
and Edward aged 15 years who was then apprenticed to his father. All were born in the 
County of Yorkshire. The servants were Edward Sugden aged 25 years, Journeyman to 
surgeon, born outside the county and Mary Thackery aged 15 years, born in Yorkshire. 
In the 1841 census the enumerators’ returns expressed ages over 15 years to the lowest 
term of five years, i.e. 15, 20, 25, etc., 15 so that although Joseph senior was recorded as 
aged 50 years, he was in fact aged 55 years; Joseph his son and Anna his daughter were 

14 Ellis, R. H. The Case Books of Dr John Snow (London, The Wellcome Institute for the History of 
Medicine, 1994). 

15 - Higgs, E. Making Sense of the Census, Public Record Office Handbook No. 23 (London, HMSO, 1989). 



Fig. 3. Fog Close Flouse, Pateley Bridge, 1994. 

both recorded as aged 20 years but Joseph was aged 24 years and Anna aged about 22 
years; Edward would have been 18 or 19 years of age. 

Snow was apparently a strict vegetarian by the time he arrived in the Warburton 
household in Pateley Bridge in 1834. He had been persuaded to adopt this diet by his 
study of the book The Return to Nature or, a defence of the vegetable regimen , by John Frank 
Newton, while he was an apprentice in Newcastle. Newton’s work was published also in 
the journal The Pamphleteer and describes his own family’s vegetarian diet 

Our breakfast is composed of dried fruits, whether raisons, figs or plums, with toasted bread or 
biscuits, and weak tea, always made of distilled water, with a moderate portion of milk in it. The 
children, who do not seem to like the flavor of tea, use milk with water instead of it. When butter 
is added to the toast, it is in very small quantity. The dinner consists of potatoes, with some other 
vegetables, according as they happen to be in season; macaroni, a tart, or a pudding, with as few 
eggs as possible: to this is sometimes added desert. Onions, especially those from Portugal, may 
be stewed with a little walnut pickle and some other vegetable ingredients, for which no cook will 
be at a loss, so as to constitute an excellent sauce for all other vegetables. As to drinking, we are 
scarcely inclined, on this cooling regimen to drink at all; but when it so happens, we take distilled 
water, having a still expressly for this purpose in our back-kitchen . 16 

If Snow followed this or a similar regime when he arrived in Pateley Bridge it is very 
understandable that he caused surprise in the household and in the neighbourhood. His 
biographer wrote — 

16 Newton, J. F. ‘The Return to Nature or, a defence of the vegetable regimen; with some account of an 
experiment made during the last three or four years in the author’s family’, The Pamphleteer 1 822, 20, pp. 97—1 1 8. 



He was a vegetarian then, and his habits puzzled the housewives, shocked the cooks, and astonished 
the children. His culinary peculiarities were, however, attended to with great kindliness (see note 
i above). 

Snow would have found the rural practice in Nidderdale very different from the 
practices in industrial Newcastle and the nearby mining villages of Killingworth and 
Burnopfield. Loudon (see note 4 above) describes the conditions of such rural practices 
in the nineteenth century and refers particularly to the practitioners’ need for a good 
reliable horse, the most essential piece of equipment and usually the most expensive in 
country practices. A horse and carriage would not have been suitable for many of the 
moorland roads in Nidderdale at that time, but the two main turnpikes to Ripon and to 
Knaresborough would have been fit for wheeled traffic (see note 10 above). Although a 
horse and carriage were usually too expensive for a country practitioner, Joseph’s employ- 
ment of Edward Sugden, a journeyman, at the time of the 1841 census suggests that he 
may have had a carriage and probably more than one horse. Certainly, Snow would 
have had the use of one of Joseph’s horses for his visits and by the end of his stay in the 
practice must have become an experienced horseman — 

Eighteen months at Pately bridge, with many rough rides, a fair share of night work, a good 
gleaning of experience, and this sojourn was over (see note 1 above). 

Richardson mentions that Snow became a supporter of the temperance cause while 
he was in Newcastle (see note 1 above), an interest which he developed during his eighteen 
months in Pateley Bridge by attending local lectures on the subject. Mr John Andrew 
and Mr Pallister from Leeds, both leading temperance campaigners in Yorkshire, 17 visited 
the town several times in 1835 and the young Dr Snow attended some of their temperance 
meetings. He was obviously influenced by them, accepting the principles of total absti- 
nence, and took the pledge. 18 Snow may well have attended the great temperance festival 
which took place in Leeds on Christmas Day 1835 and over which Mr Andrew presided 
(see note 17 above). 

One of John Snow’s brothers, Thomas Snow, who later became the vicar of 
Underbarrow in Cumberland, was also an enthusiastic supporter of the temperance 
movement. He often contributed articles to The British Temperance Advocate. In one of these, 
he records that he spent a day with John in the environs of Ripon in June 1836 and 
visited the lovely park of Studley. Here John read to him the text of a lecture on temper- 
ance which he had given earlier that month in Pateley Bridge. This was probably John’s 
first public lecture on the subject. Fifty years later, Thomas found the text of John’s 
lecture in some papers sent to him by his sisters from York, and published it in full. 19 
Thomas mentions that his brother went to Leeds later in the month to attend a discussion 
on temperance. This was likely to have been the great public meeting held on 25th June, 
mentioned by Pallister (see note 18 above). John then returned to York, probably directly 
from Leeds, to visit his parents and there played a part in creating the York Temperance 
Society. 20 The Warburtons were probably sympathetic to the temperance cause, if not 
active supporters, because Edward Warburton is recorded in his obituary as promoting 
activities to improve the circumstances of the working classes. In particular, he was one 

17 • Winskill, P. Temperance Standard Bearers of the Nineteenth Century (1897), pp. 55, 296-97. 

18 Pallister, W. A. ‘Some Reminiscences of a Pioneer’, The British Temperance Advocate, 1885, June, pp. 85-86. 
19 - Snow, T. Doctor’s Teetotal Address Delivered in 1836, The British Temperance Advocate 1888, November, 
p. 182; 1889, January, pp. 20-21. 

20 Snow, T. ‘The Beginning of the Society in York’, The British Temperance Advocate, 1886, December, 
PP- 1 95 - 96 - 



of the directors of the Pateley Bridge Public Cocoa House Company Ltd intended to 
provide a healthier alternative to public houses and the consumption of alcohol. 21 

Despite the hard work and the rough rides, Snow enjoyed his stay in Nidderdale and 
became a long-standing friend of the Warburtons 

Some few years ago a friend of mine went to the same village, by the recommendation of Dr 
Snow, as assistant to the present Mr Warburton of that place, a son of Dr Snow’s ‘old master’. 
The circumstances of this recommendation often led Dr Snow to refer to his life at Pately Bridge 
in our conversations. He invariably, on such occasions spoke of Mr Warburton, his ‘old master’ 
in terms of sincere respect, and depicted his own life there with great liveliness (see note i 

In the Autumn of 1836, Snow left his home in York and travelled to London to 
complete his medical education. There he attended the Hunterian School of Anatomy 
and the Westminster Hospital. In 1838, he qualified lsa and mrcs. In 1843, he graduated 
mb in London University, proceeding to md in the following year. He was active in the 
Westminster Medical Society to which he was elected a member in October 1837. This 
Society amalgamated with the Medical Society of London in 1850 and in 1855 Snow 
became President. 22 Later, Snow achieved national fame in epidemiology by discovering 
the mode of spread of cholera 23 and in anaesthetics by designing an inhaler for ether. 24 
His fame was such that he was called upon to administer chloroform to Queen Victoria 
at the birth of her son, Prince Leopold on 7th April 1853 (see note 14 above). John Snow 
died in 1858 at the young age of 45 years following a stroke (see note 1 above) and was 
buried in the Brompton Cemetery, London. 


Riding on horseback in Nidderdale and visiting patients in the summer months may 
seem idyllic but on the moorlands with only tracks it must have sometimes been dangerous 
especially in the winter months and at night. Loudon (see note 4 above) describes some 
of the recorded accidents which befell country practitioners in the eighteenth and nine- 
teenth centuries. Sadly, Joseph Warburton died tragically in such an accident at the age 
of 55 years on 30th June 1841, just over three weeks after the 1841 census listed him 
and his family at Fog Close House (see above). He was thrown from his horse and killed, 
between Ramsgill and Pateley Bridge (see note 21 above). He was buried in the church- 
yard of St Cuthbert’s church adjacent to Fog Close House. He must have been a very 
popular and much respected local doctor because a monument, paid for by public 
subscription, was later erected over his grave. 

No contemporary records of Joseph Warburton’s tragic death, nor of the erection of 
the monument over his grave were found in the Vestry Minutes of St Cuthbert’s church 
Pateley Bridge between 1834 and 1844. Neither was mention made of them in local 
newspapers, the Harrogate Advertiser and the Leeds Mercury , in July 1841. The Warburton 
monument, which is in one corner of the churchyard, remains in good condition and 
the inscription easily legible. When visited in 1994 (Fig. 4), it was surrounded by nettles 
and churchyard rubbish. The inscription reads as was originally recorded by Grainge 
(see note 9 above) — 

21 ■ Obituary of Edward Warburton, undated newspaper cutting held by Nidderdale Museum, Pateley Bridge. 

22 - Thomas, H. (ed.) The Medical Society of London (London, Heinemann, 1972). 

23 - Snow, J. On the Mode of Communication of Cholera (London, Churchill, 1856). 

24 - Snow, J. On Narcotism by the Inhalation of Vapours, facsimile edn with an introductory essay by Ellis, R. H. 
(London, The Royal Society of Medicine, 1991). 



Fig. 4. The Warburton Tomb, St Cuthbert’s 
Church, Pateley Bridge, 1994. 

Erected in Memory of Joseph Warburton, surgeon, by his numerous friends to record their sense 
of the loss which they have sustained by his premature death, and their respect for the great skill, 
integrity, benevolence, industry, and energy, which distinguished his character. He practised his 
profession in this place for thirty-three years, and died June 30th 1841, aged 55. 

The date of death was confirmed by the burial register signed by the incumbent, the 
Revd Stoney. 25 Also recorded later on the monument were the following inscriptions 

In memory of Harriet, wife of Joseph Warburton who died 8th March 1880 aged 87 years. 

And of Joseph eldest son of the above who died 3rd July 1890 in his 74th year. 

Also of Anna Warburton only daughter of the above who died 4th April 1897 in her 79th year. 
In memory of Edward Warburton who died 25th August 1883 in the 6 1 st year of his age. 

In memory of Jane wife of Edward Warburton born 18th October 1827 died 1st September 1894. 


Joseph Warburton’s eldest son Joseph succeeded him in the Pateley Bridge practice in 
1846. He had qualified in 1837 and is listed in the 1841 census at Fog Close House with 
his father as surgeon apothecary so must have been in practice as his assistant or 
partner — 

Joseph Warburton lsa 21st December 1837. Son of Joseph Warburton of Pateley Bridge. An 
apprentice to his father. Apothecary for 5 years. Indenture dated 14th July 1831. Testimonial of 

25 NYCRO, Northallerton, Burial Register of the Chapelry of Pateley Bridge 1841. 



moral character; T. U. Stoney, his father. Age, baptised Oct 27th 1816. Lectures 1833. Hospital 
attendance, 15 months at Leeds General Infirmary. 26 

His younger brother Edward qualified in 1846 — 

Edward Warburton lsa 9th July 1846. Son of Joseph Warburton of Pateley Bridge, Yorks. An 
apprentice to his father. Surgeon and apothecary 5 years. Indenture dated istjan 1839. Testimonial 
of moral character, Rev T. U. Stoney, incumbent of Pateley Bridge. Age, baptised Oct 25th 1822. 
Lectures Oct 1842. Hospital attendance, 18 months at the Leeds Royal Infirmary. 27 

Presumably Edward continued his apprenticeship in Pateley Bridge after his father’s 
death in 1841, but as apprentice to his brother, Joseph. The records of the Society of 
Apothecaries, however, do not refer to this. He is likely to have joined Joseph as a partner 
in the practice after qualification in 1846 but, by 1851, Edward appears to have been 
alone in the practice. 

In the 1851 census, Joseph is not recorded at Fog Close House. The enumerator’s 
return lists Harriet widow aged 58 years, House Proprietor, Anna aged 32 years, School 
Mistress, Edward aged 28 years, Medical Practitioner, Elizabeth Kirkbridge, aged 19 
years, House Servant and William Hardcastle, aged 24 years, Groom. Furthermore, the 
Medical Directory for the same year, 1851, does not list Joseph Warburton but only 
Edward — 

Warburton Edw. Pateley Bridge, Yorks, mrcs Eng 1845. LSA T 846. Med. Offr. Dist. Pateley 
Bridge Union. 28 

It appears that Joseph worked with his father in the practice in Pateley Bridge after 
qualifying in 1837, and succeeded him after his death in June 1841. By 1851, however, 
Joseph must have either left the practice or was away, perhaps overseas, since his name 
was not in the 1851 census at Fog Close House nor in the medical directory for that 

In 1861, the census enumerator’s list shows the Warburton household as being at 
number 43 Pateley Bent Lane. This address is likely to have been that of Fog Close 
House although this was not recorded by name. There was Harriet Warburton aged 68 
years, head of the household, a widow and proprietor of land and houses, Anna aged 42 
years and Edward aged 38 years, General Practitioner. Edward by this time employed 
an assistant, Charles Shragen aged 21 years, born at North Lafferton (Luffenham) in 
Rutlandshire. There was just one servant, Ann Walker aged 23 years, born at Stean 
Beckdown (Stonebeck Down) in Yorkshire. Again, Joseph Warburton is not mentioned 
although in the 1865 Medical Directory he is listed separately from his brother - 

Warburton Joseph, Pateley Bridge Yorksh. lsa 1837. 29 

The Directory indicates that neither Joseph nor Edward made a return for 1865 and 
their entries were brought forward from the previous year. Joseph’s entry shows that he 
was not registered under the Medical Act of 1858, that is, he had not by then obtained 
the new licence under this Act to work in clinical practice. It is not known whether he 
had some other non-clinical medical employment in the neighbourhood or was abroad 
but retained an address in Pateley Bridge. 

26 - Records of the Society of Apothecaries, The Guildhall Library, London. Ms. 8241/9, p. 66. 
27 The London and Provincial Medical Directory 1851 (London, John Churchill), p. 521. 

28 - Records of the Society of Apothecaries, The Guildhall Library, London. Ms. 8241/ 15, p. 33. 

29 - The London and Provincial Medical Directory 1865 (London, John Churchill), p. 540. 



By the time the 187 1 census was taken, Edward Warburton was married and Fog Close 
House had been divided into two dwellings. The census enumerator’s return shows that 
one dwelling housed his mother, Harriet aged 78 years, his sister, Ann aged 52 years 
and May Unwin aged 14 years, a domestic servant, born in Ramsgill. In the other 
dwelling was Edward, aged 48 years, mrcs General Practitioner with his wife Jane 43 
years and a nephew, Thomas Harker, a medical student, all born in Pateley Bridge. In 
addition, there was an assistant, Beaumont R. Conolly aged 27 years, born in Woolwich, 
Kent, as well as two servants, Matilda Clovey aged 36 years, cook, and Hannah Green 
aged 1 g years, housemaid. Presumably, Thomas Harker was a nephew of Jane Warburton 
because Edward Warburton was not known to have had any married sisters. 

A year or so later, following the Public Health Act of 1872 which required local 
authorities to appoint medical officers of health, Edward Warburton was appointed to 
this new post in Pateley Bridge. This was in addition to his post of Medical Officer to 
the local Board of Guardians. As Medical Officer of Health he was very active in bringing 
about improved sanitation and water supplies in the town (see note 10 above). 30 Possibly 
the influence of John Snow led him to apply for and accept this post and devote his time 
and energy to the water supplies and sanitation of the neighbourhood. Certainly, he must 
have been very familiar with Snow’s pioneering work on the spread of cholera published 
in his book in 1856 (see note 23 above). In addition to his medical work, Edward took 
a prominent part in local education and was one of the first members of the School 
Board and Superintendent of the Church Sunday School. He is said to have supported 
every movement which had as its aim the social improvement, recreation and enjoyment 
of the masses. For example, he was one of the managers of a local savings bank intended 
to inculcate in the working classes the habit of saving (see note 2 1 above). The Warburtons 
were close friends of the Metcalfe family, the mill owners of Glasshouses (see above). In 
1843, Miss Warburton, probably Anna, was a bearer at the funeral of Elizabeth Metcalfe 
and in 1856, Dr Warburton, presumably Edward, proposed the health of Mr and Mrs 
George Metcalfe at the joint celebration of their wedding and the declaration of peach 
ending the Crimean War. 31 

In the 1881 census, only three residents were recorded at Fog Close House. The 
enumerator’s return lists Edward, aged 58 years surgeon mrcs England, his wife Jane, 
aged 53 years and his sister Anna aged 62 years. There were no children or servants 
recorded. No evidence was found of Edward and Jane ever having any children. A lack 
of servants, however, seems unlikely and failure to record them may have been due to 
their absence on the day of the census which was taken on Sunday 3rd April 1881 (see 
note 15 above). 

The Warburton medical practice may have ended on the death of Edward Warburton 
on 25th August 1883 at the age of 61 years. Ward (see note 6 above), however, wrote 
that Joseph succeeded his father and died in 1891, aged 75 years. Ward also states that 
Dr Eumsden joined Joseph Warburton as assistant and later succeeded him. Dr Lumsden 
died in 1932. So it is possible that after Edward died in 1883, Joseph returned to the 
practice, presumably having registered under the Medical Act of 1858, and continued as 
the Principal until his death seven years later, being then succeeded by Dr Lumsden. 
The 1891 census enumerator’s return does, indeed, list, at Fog Close House, George 
Lumsden, head of the household, aged 36 years, a surgeon, born in Hull. Also Arrabella, 
his sister aged 26 years, born in Canterbury Kent, and who presumably kept house for 

30 Correspondence columns in undated newspaper cuttings held by Nidderdale Museum, Pateley Bridge. 
Extract from the Metcalfe family papers, Ms. Nidderdale Museum, Pateley Bridge. 

31 Extract from the Metcalfe family papers, Ms. Nidderdale Museum, Pateley Bridge. 



him, as well as Harry H. Gummell, aged 27 years, assistant surgeon, born in Leominster, 
Herefordshire. On census day, a visitor was present, namely, Frederick G. Phillips, aged 
five years, born in Pateley Bridge, and one servant, Elizabeth Thompson, aged 20 years, 
born in Norley. Anna Warburton was still in Pateley Bridge, but living on her own at 9 
Summershall Place. She is listed in the census enumerator’s return as being aged 7 1 years 
and living on her own means. There was also a visitor in her house on census day, 
namely, Annie E. Long, aged 45 years, also living on her own means, born in Otley. 
Anna died in 1897 in her 79th year (see above). 

Whether the Warburton era of medical practice in Pateley Bridge ended in 1883 or 
1891, Joseph Warburton and his two sons Joseph and Edward had provided medical care 
for the people of the town and the surrounding area of upper Nidderdale for over three- 
quarters of the nineteenth century. 


I am greatly indebted to Muriel Swires, Nidderdale Museum, Pateley Bridge, who gave much 
helpful advice and assistance in accessing relevant material in the museum and who kindly provided 
the photograph of the Warburton tomb (Fig. 4); also to Mr Martin Stray, Senior Library Assistant, 
North Yorkshire County Library, Harrogate, who provided copies of the census returns and much 
other useful information. I am pleased to acknowledge the permission of the Royal London Hospital 
Archives to reproduce Fig. 1 and of the North Yorkshire County Library, Harrogate, to reproduce 
Fig. 2. 

The help and advice of the following are also gratefully acknowledged: 

Jude Boxall, Livesey Project Librarian, Library & Learning Resources Service, University of 
Central Lancashire, Preston. 

Stella H. Carpenter, Local Historian, Bradford. 

Mr Jonathan Evans, Archivist, The Royal London Hospital, London. 

Colin Price, Assistant Librarian, Local & Lamily History Department, Central Library, Leeds. 
Miss E. Willmott, Local Studies Librarian, Central Library, Bradford. 

The staff of the Guildhall Library, London. 

The staff of the North Yorkshire County Records Office, Northallerton. 

The staff of the University Library, Cambridge. 

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol. yi, iggg 



By Herbert Masterson 


Large electricity supply undertakings in Britain, both municipal and public, attracted 
brisk investment in the early years of the twentieth century. 1 Their history is well charted 
in contemporary publications, which have been a fruitful source of research material. 2 
Public companies set up in small communities to provide a local electric light supply 
have had less attention. Their relative neglect is understandable. Individually, they were 
less newsworthy, and, as a group, they played only a minor role in rural electrification. 
In the Yorkshire Dales, as elsewhere, most early village lighting schemes were provided 
by mill- or land-owners as a secondary activity, usually with no separate commercial 
identity. There are many examples. The Gill family of New York mill in Summerbridge 
gave Nidderdale its first electric light in 1891 on a limited scale, benefiting the chapel 
and a few houses. 3 Further up that Dale at Pateley Bridge, it was estimated in 1900 that 
investment of £2,000 would enable the surplus power at Mr Wood’s corn mill to supply 
750 lamps, and by 1903, two companies had applied to the District Council for permission 
to lay mains in the township. 4 When Mr J. A. Farrer of Ingleborough Hall in Clapham, 
near Settle, developed a hydro-electric scheme in 1893 to P ower his sawmill, he also lit 
the Hall, the Church, the home farm, his agent’s house, the village reading room, and 
provided 13 street lights. 5 Upper Wharfedale examples include Hartlington sawmill, 
whose water wheel provided a supply for a joiner’s shop and some other consumers at 
Burnsall. 6 The Institute at Skireholme, adjacent to the village paper mill, had a large 
billiard room and kitchen lit with electric light, 7 and AC supplies were provided later at 
both Hebden and Kilnsey. There was also a municipal installation — Bradford 
Corporation decided in 1 9 1 1 to provide a dedicated generating facility at its Consumption 
Sanatorium for Women at Edge Side on the Grassington-Hebden road. 8 

Of the 20 or so small 9 electric light undertakings recorded in contemporary electrical 
journals as registered public companies in England in the first decade and a half of 
the twentieth century, some seem to have left no record beyond the fact of company 

1 Byatt’s data indicate investment of £45111 in the first decade, representing about 2% of the Gross Domestic 
Capital formation of that period (Byatt, I. C. R. The British electrical industry i8y y-igi 4 (Oxford, 1979)). 

2 For an extensive review, see Hannah, L. Electricity before nationalisation (London, 1979). 

3 Jennings, B. (ed.) History of Nidderdale (York, 1983), p. 261; Barley, K. M. Nidderdale (Nidderdale Museum, 

P- 5 ; 

4 - Electrical Engineering 25 (1900), p. 608; 31 (1903), p. 210. 

5 - Farrar, DrJ. A., priv. comm., 1991; Electrical Engineering 46 (1910), p. 581. The Agent was also allowed 
a power point for an electric kettle, on condition it was not used during church services. 

6 - Dobson, J. priv. comm., 1993. 

7 Crowther, J. Silva Gars (Keighley, 1930), p. 95 ‘... in which the work people who come from a distance, 

8 The £20,500 scheme, including an electric light installation costing £1,150, provided accommodation 
for 66 women patients. (Bradford Council Papers BB C. 1.2 1.8.) 

9 Faking a capitalisation of £ 1 ,500 as an upper limit for a village undertaking. 



Table i Small Electrical Supply Companies Recorded as Registered in the Early Twentieth 



Registered Company 





U> 5 °° 

T 9°3 





N 7 

RO: 13 Farmers’ Factory, Sherwood 

St, Notts 

: 9°4 


E L Co Ltd 


respectively Herts & Essex 




RO: Moorgate Court, Moorgate Place, 




RO: Moorgate Court, Moorgate Place, 

I 9°4 

Co Ltd 


Bristol Trust Ltd will pay formation 
costs for £200 fee 

! 9°4 



RO: Moorgate Court, Moorgate Place, 

r 9°4 



Bristol Trust Ltd will pay formation 
costs for £200 fee 

T 9°4 



Bristol Trust Ltd will pay formation 
costs for £200 fee 




RO: 19 Carnaby St, Golden Sq, W 


£i> 5 °° 

Acquiring transfer of NEL Order 1904 

■ 9°7 



To supply Gt & L M, & Lee in Bucks. 
RO High St, Amersham 

x 9°7 



RO: 74 Coleman St. EC 

r 9°9 



Min sub £100. RO: 51 King’s Arcade, 




19 1 2 


£ 200 

RO 50 Queen Anne’s Gate SW 


& P Co 

U> 25 ° 

RO. T S Jones 54 New Broad St EC 

1 9 1 3 


£ 625 

Sec: WP Inman; 400 lamps capacity 

r 9 T 3 



Melton Mowbray 

registration 10 (Table i). Some prospered, as at Brentford, which found profitability in 
redistributing a bulk supply from the Metropolitan Electricity Company, before being 
bought out by Brentford Gas Company in 19 14. 11 Of the others, the remaining Board 
of Trade records of dissolved companies 12 show that nine of them never traded at all. 13 

10 - Perhaps, like some larger schemes, they did not get off the ground. In 1912, a company at Lytham seeking 
£10,000 initial capital had only 21 applications totalling £1,357, and was abandoned. (Electrical Engineering 
8 (191 2 )) P- 79)0 

11 Electrical Engineering 10 (1914), p. 154 et seq. However, most urban companies were municipalised sooner 
or later by the operation of the compulsory purchase provisions of the Electricity Lighting Acts of 1882 
and 1888. 

12 Public Record Office (subsequently cited as pro) records have been stripped to ease storage requirements. 
Orbell, J. A guide to tracing the history of a business (Aldershot, 1987), p. 44 et seq. 

13 Marlborough, Camberley, Bishops Stortford, Newark, Missenden, Dorchester, Paddington, Haywards 
Heath; even if the Nottingham company did trade in parallel with the municipal undertaking established in 
1900, [Muirhead, J. H. Birmingham institutions (Birmingham, 1 9 1 1 )] it ceased in 1905 through the death of its 
manager, pro bt 31/28347. 



In particular, those sharing a common Registered Office seem to have been speculative 
company registrations by non-local entrepreneurs which came to nothing. 14 

Only two small Yorkshire companies are listed, and they are both in Upper Wharfedale. 
The Grassington Electric Supply Company Ltd was set up in 1909, 15 after two years 
spent canvassing support, and even then had secured less than a fifth of its £1,000 initial 
capitalisation when contracts were signed. By contrast, the Kettlewell Electricity Supply 
Company Ltd was inaugurated in 1913 16 with its capitalisation of £650 already paid-up. 
It enjoyed the support of Mr Ottiwell Robinson JP, a wealthy mill- and land-owner living 
in the village, noted for his local benefactions, 17 and it was able to tempt the competent 
Skipton engineer, John Banks, away from his allegiance to the larger Grassington com- 
pany to set up the Kettlewell system. 18 With a compact distribution area and little need 
for development, the Kettlewell company enjoyed business stability. The Grassington 
company with a much larger potential customer catchment area, was tempted into contin- 
ual expansion which its access to capital could barely support. In origin, it was a self- 
help enterprise by local entrepreneurs determined to improve the amenities of their 
community. It remained a small business run by directors elected by shareholders. 
Directors’ meetings seldom attracted more than the necessary quorum. General meetings 
of shareholders also drew small numbers, and often were not representative of sharehold- 
ings. Retention of competent staff was difficult and adequate capital provision always 
elusive. Despite this, the company succeeded in providing a supply to an extending 
customer base in this Dales community for over a decade. A review of its history offers 
an opportunity to explore how business was conducted in this type of village enterprise, 
and how those who managed it responded to the various influences exerted on them. 


There was a will in Grassington at the turn of the twentieth century to attract tourists 
and new residents in order to revive the village fortunes, 19 which had slumped in the 
1 800s when two of the main industries of the area collapsed. Employment at the local 
mill at Linton had ended about i860, 20 and underground lead mining had closed in 
1877, killed off by cheap imports, mainly from Spain, with which the deep and thin- 
veined local mines could not compete. 21 Between the Census years 1851 and 1891, the 
population had dropped from 1,138 to 480. A group of local people formed the 
Grassington Waterworks Company Ltd in 1887 to renew the village water supply, 22 and 
a sewerage system was installed. 23 When the Yorkshire Dales Railway reached the area 
in July 1 902, 24 it brought not only tourists but also several wealthy new residents from 

14 - A solicitor, director of the Bristol Trust Company, was a director also of 14 registered electricity companies. 
pro bt 31/ 17342. 

15 ' PRO BT 31/103392. 

16 PRO BT 31/ 125980. 

17 Craven District Household Almanac (1929), p. 212; (1932), p. 67. 

18 - Craven Herald (1912), November. 

19 Harker, Rev. B. J. The Buxton of the North (1890). The larger Ingleton company, inaugurated in 1900 
(pro bt 31/60796) had a similar motivation. ‘The growth [of Ingleton] as a health resort had made the 
inconvenience from insufficient lighting very keenly felt.’ Electrical Engineering 25 (1900), p. 166. 

20 Raistrick, A. The Pennine Dales (London, 1968), p. 122. See also n. 27. 

2L Raistrick, A. Lead mining in the Mid-Pennines (Truro, 1973), p. 1 16; Raistrick, A. ‘Linton-in-Craven; a study 
of a Pennine Dales parish’ Geography 23 (1938), pp. 15-24; Speakman, C. Portrait of North Yorkshire (London, 
J 986), p.151. 

22 Led by Joseph Mason, cotton manufacturer of Skipton and owner of Linton Mill. (Harland, R. S. priv. 
comm., (1996); Dalesman (1967), Lebruary.) 

23 Grassington & District Traders’ Association, Official Illustrated Guide to Grassington & District (undated). 

24 - Baughan, P. E. The railways of Wharfedale (Newton Abbot, 1969), p. 190; Joy, D. Yorkshire Dales railway 
(Clapham, 1983), p. 19 et seq. 



Bradford, now within commuting range. That city’s Corporation had installed Britain’s 
first municipal power station in 1889 25 and its more affluent citizens were already accus- 
tomed to electric light in their homes. Although electric lighting in the early 1900s was 
confined generally to commercial properties and large private houses in towns, 26 a village 
project in Grassington could have expected reasonable support. When John Fielden, a 
Skipton tailor, bought the unoccupied 27 five-storey Linton water mill in 1907, 28 possibly 
as a speculation influenced by the Lancashire mill building boom of 1904— 08, 29 John 
Crowther, the Grassington chemist and a local worthy, saw an opportunity of basing a 
village lighting scheme there. 30 His interest came to the notice of a Bradford electrical 
contractor, Charles Pullan, who recommended the installation of a water turbine 31 and 
generator 32 on the washout sluice of the upper of Linton mill’s two weirs 33 (Fig. 1). Mr 
Fielden agreed to lease the water rights, 34 and the Grassington Electric Supply Go. Ltd 
(gescl) was formed in 1909 to raise capital to implement the scheme. The first directors 
were Messrs Growther and Fielden, with Mr Sam Lee jp as Chairman. 35 gescl’s power- 
house was a small wooden building 36 with a corrugated iron roof, and a lean-to over the 
turbine pit (Fig. 2). Gables crossed the river to a distribution board at the bottom of the 
village and current was delivered at 230V to consumers by cables supported mainly on 
brackets attached to chimneys. Major Roundell of Gledstone Hall 37 presided over the 
official opening (Fig. 3) which was marked by a fifty-strong procession and followed by 
a hotel dinner lit by the new electric light. 38 

Much of the management of the company in its early years fell to Mr Growther. He 
found capital hard to raise, profitability too low to pay dividends, and competent engineers 
difficult to retain. There was also an expensive dispute with Mr Pullan. 39 Despite this, 
company income rose acceptably and Grassington Parish Council was persuaded, eventu- 
ally, to replace its 24 street oil lamps with electric light. 40 A special Shareholders’ Meeting, 

25 - Hannah, L. op. cit. in n. 2, p. 8. 

26 - Hannah, L. op. cit. in n. 2, pp. 186—189. Electricity in the home extended to only 6% of the housing stock 
in 1919, and to just over 60% by 1938. 

27 • ‘Last running 35 years ago’ Craven Herald (1912), December. 

28 Mr Fielden bought Linton and Hebden mills from the executors of Joseph Mason, (deed of January 
1907), taking a mortgage from the vendors against the security of the properties. This was replaced by a 
mortgage from the London Joint Stock Bank Ltd (deed of February 1912) and discharged when Linton mill 
was sold to Mr Lowcock. See also n. 44. 

29 - Farnie, D. A. The textile machine-making industry and the world market, 1870-1 g6o. Business History (1990, 
October), p. 154. 

30 Linton mill waterwheel powered some level of electric lighting from 1907 (Craven Herald (1912), 
December) but was inadequate for a village lighting scheme. 

3L The turbine, supplied by Jas. Gordon & Co. (London), was a vertical shaft mixed-flow Samson type, one 
of many trade names used by manufacturers specialising in high-speed turbines for small water head locations 
(the head at Linton was only 3 to 4 m). Wilson, P. N. Early water turbines in the United Kingdom , Trans. Newcomen 
Soc. 31 (1957-58), pp. 234-5. 

32 Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing Co., Thornbury, Bradford, rated 20 kW at 1100 rpm. 

33 - Electrical Review 65 (1909), p. 837; Electrical Engineering 44 (1909), p. 695. ‘One of the least expensive 
of schemes, costing £8oo-£i ,000; it would have cost twice as much if a weir had been necessary.’ 

34 One of several indications of his speculative purchase of Linton mill. Owners were usually obsessively 
possessive of water rights. 

35 - Mr Lee, then 70, was a lead miner in Grassington in his youth, and when that employment failed, made 
good in a second career in Preston (Preston Guardian (1912), March). He had retained a benevolent interest 
in his home town, and supported gescl by taking 200 shares, but died 1912 (Craven Herald (1912), March). 

36 Washed away once during construction, Craven Herald (1991), May. 

37 Conservative candidate for the Skipton Parliamentary Division. (Daily Sketch (1909), November.) 

38 - Craven Herald (1909), November. 

39 Over the cost of meeting Post Office requirements where gescl’s line crossed their wires. At arbitration, 
the settlement was in Mr Pullan’s favour. 

40 - Yorkshire Post (1910), September. 



lower weir 

T in” footbridge 
to Grassington 

Fig. i. gescl Powerhouse and Linton Mill in 1909 

however, was required in early 19 11 to address the capital shortfall. Mr Alfred Wall of 
Grassington and Pontefract, by taking sixty of the unsold shares, gave others confidence, 
and Mr Charles Lowcock, another Skipton tailor, 41 capped the proceedings by taking 
the last forty. However, the need for capital soon outstripped the original capitalisation. 
By mid-1911, Messrs Crowther, Lowcock, Wall, and Elliott 42 were committed to bonds 
to the bank totalling £150, and an increase in share capital to £1,500 was agreed at the 
following agm. Mr Crowther resigned, and Mr Lowcock was elected chairman in his 
place. 43 

About this time, Mr Lowcock bought a half share in Linton mill from Mr Fielden, 44 
and formed with him the Linton Mill Estate Co. Ltd (lmecl) to manage it. He also 
formed the Linton Mill Manufacturing Co. Ltd with his two sons, Francis and Edward, 
to run a cotton manufacturing business there. Early in 1912, Linton mill burned down 45 
(Fig. 4). Although gescl plant was unaffected, the fire had a major influence on that 
company’s future. During reconstruction, 46 lmecl replaced the old mill waterwheel with 
a large water turbine which not only powered a rope drive to the mill main shaft but 
also ran a generator more than twice as large as gescl’s. In meeting their growing 

41 And former employer of Mr Fielden. 

42 A Bradford coal merchant resident at Hardy Grange in Grassington, a shareholder, and future director, 
of GESCL. 

43 Mr Lowcock reported Mr Crowther had suffered a nervous breakdown. Craven District Flousehold 
Almanac (1912), November, p. 214; Craven Flerald (1912), October. 

44 - He completed the purchase by deed of January 1913. 

45 Craven Herald ( 1 9 1 2), January, has Mr Fielden’s graphic account of the fire, and of the failure of Skipton’s 
horse-drawn fire engine to attend. 

46 It had been insured and was rebuilt as a weaving shed. 



Fig. 2 . gescl Powerhouse on upper weir. 

Fig. 3 . gescl opening ceremony. 

consumer demand, gescl directors had the new option of buying a supply from the mill 
company, rather than finding capital for additional generating plant of their own. 

1912 had started brightly for gescl. Grassington Wesleyan Chapel installed electric 
light 47 and the gescl system was extended from Grassington to the adjoining township 
of Threshfield. The number of lights supplied was twice that of the previous year, and 

47 Electrical Times ( 19 1 2), January 11. 



Fig. 5. Linton upper weir breached by flood water. 



better use of the company’s plant outside lighting-up hours was secured by providing 
power supplies. When Mr Lowcock chaired the third agm, there was satisfaction that 
revenue had doubled. There would be no dividend that year, but the company had made 
a good profit, and ‘was now on the highway to success’. The 500 new ordinary shares 
had been taken up quickly, half by Mr Wall alone. 

But before the year’s end, flood water swept away the centre portion of the upper 
weir 48 (Fig. 5). gescl lost the use of its in-house generator, and became entirely dependent 
on the newly-installed lmecl turbine until the weir was repaired in August 1913. Although 
income had increased by 20%, the company had made a loss. Even so, the shareholders, 
many of whom were consumers, encouraged the directors to buy a second-hand oil 
engine from Wheatleys of Leeds. Perhaps they were influenced by a large bill from lmecl 
for ‘a special extra supply’ while the gescl turbine was out of service, but they were 
certainly concerned about the priority the Lowcocks had given to the mill’s needs at the 
expense of the village lighting supply. 49 

Discussion at the fifth agm in 1914 was led by Mr Frielinghaus, Mr Wall’s nephew 
and an electrical engineer. 50 His theme was the adverse cash flow position of the company. 
The oil engine had turned out to be an expensive option, consumers’ meters were not 
tamper-proof, 51 their inaccuracy was not in the company’s favour, and the outstanding 
capital debt was burdensome. He called for a Special General Meeting to consider 
advertising the company for sale as a going concern. This meeting, held in November, 
was poorly attended, with Mr Frielinghaus a notable absentee, and the resolution failed. 

The number of consumers continued to rise satisfactorily in the early war years, but 
the gescl system remained unreliable and directors were unable to retain a competent 
engineer to deal with it. They found themselves increasingly reliant on lmecl supplies. 
They decided to buy a 14 year-old National suction gas engine from the Bradford firm 
of Millar, Dennis & Co., whose director, J. D. Dennis, came to live in Threshfield in 
19 1 5. 52 These engines were seen at that time as compact, economical, and normally 
requiring little attention. 53 

Mr Fielden severed his link with the company about this time, selling his shares to Mr 
A. J. Plunkett, a coal merchant living in Threshfield, 54 who became the new company 
chairman. 55 In November 1917, the company had a further influx of new shareholders 
who had bought Mr Wall’s holding following his death the previous year. Two of these, 
Mr Dennis and Mr F. S. Clayton, another Bradford engineer resident in Threshfield, 56 
were co-opted to the board at the agm to strengthen technical discussion. Revenue had 
dropped, attributed by Mr Plunkett to the absence of a company engineer for the greater 
part of the year. By 1918, however, income had doubled again, but the suction gas engine 
remained unreliable, and there was further dependence on lmecl electricity during the 
summer water shortage. The distribution system was deteriorating too, and the directors 
renewed their efforts to engage a competent electrician. 

48 Reportedly 'known to have been in a state of decay for fully two years.’ Craven Herald (1912), November. 

49 - gescl directors decided, at a meeting not attended by Mr Lowcock, to send a formal complain to lmecl. 

50 - Registry of Wills, Wakefield, 3 (1916), 2264. 

51 - A common problem of supply companies. Electrical Review 70 (1912), p. 148. 

52 - Bradford Post Office Directory, 1909; Bradford Official Handbook (9th edn, undated), p. 63. 

53 - Ewing, J. A. The steam engine and other heat engines (Cambridge, 1914), pp. 566—68; Clerk, D. The gas, petrol, 
and oil engine (London, 1909), I, p. 32. 

54 - Central Association Volunteer Training Corps Register (1914), December; Bradford Post Office Directory, 
1909; West Riding Registry of Deeds 23 (1915), 406/ 161. 

55 - Mr Lowcock declined to succeed Mr Fielden as chairman, possibly in view of his intention to sell up his 
Skipton tailoring business and retire. Craven Herald (1917). 

56 West Riding Registry of Deeds 42 (1919), 461. 



A major challenge came in 1919 when lmecl, responding to the post-war cotton 
boom, 57 decided to buy a large steam-driven power plant for the mill, gescl directors 
were asked to commit themselves to a ten-year supply contract, but concluded that ‘the 
company could not enter into a contract to purchase current generated by so large a 
power-plant as purposed being installed by lmecl owing to the high cost of production 
compared with this company’s requirements’. 58 The gescl directors still believed the 
suction gas plant was their cheapest option and decided to get it into full working order. 
Mr Dennis arranged for one of his Bradford engineers to examine the plant and to 
instruct gescl’s new engineer, Mr Musto, how to run it. The directors also decided to 
look for a second-hand 40 kW dynamo to supplement the 20 kW dynamo they already 
had. This positive line soon faded, faced with continuing difficulties with the gas plant. 
The directors passed the Mitchell Dennis report to Mr Musto, with instructions to ‘effect 
the necessary repairs at once’. Instead, he resigned. They had paid his expense claim for 
board and lodging only ‘under protest’, and since they had been considering ‘what they 
deemed to be necessary in the way of heating and accommodation to make the power 
house comfortable’, it may be they expected Mr Musto to live in there with the plant. 
By 1920, the gescl directors had returned to the possibility of taking all their electricity 
requirements from lmecl, but now found the Lowcock terms unacceptable. 59 The future 
of gescl as a separate generating company looked bleak. The directors agreed to follow 
Mr Lowcock’s proposal to canvass shareholders to support a proposal to sell the company. 

Although the company’s income had increased yet again by 20%, the main business 
of the tenth agm was a review by Mr Plunkett of a meeting which directors had held 
with consumers at Grassington Town Hall. The consumers had been briefed on the 
difficulties the company faced in continuing to supply electricity at a reasonable price 
and had been asked ‘what material support may be relied on in the event of further 
capital expenditure being necessary.’ Mr Plunkett reported that the directors ‘had received 
much encouragement and indications of financial support if they would present a thor- 
oughly reliable Electric-Lighting Scheme as soon as possible’ and they commissioned Mr 
B. N. Dadge of Brighouse to devise one. Although not recorded as present, Mr Crowther 
was heartened: ‘Business people from “the city” (Bradford, forsooth!) are erecting palatial 
dwellings, and the struggles of the local electric lighting company are expected soon to 
be overcome, and develop into a strong corporation ...’. 60 However, when gescl directors 
presented Mr Dadge’s report, and its costs, in Grassington Town Hall in July, ‘the 
consumers had no alternative to offer to the proposed sale’. By the end of 1920, the 
company had been advertised for sale and two offers received — £375 from lmecl and 
£550 from a Mr Fisher — and the directors had accepted the latter. A directors’ meeting 
then heard Mr Lowcock’s explanation of a difficulty which had arisen between Mr Fisher 
and lmecl over the security of tenure of the water rights. 61 In the absence of a resolution 

57 Farnie, op. cit. in n. 29, p. 153 et seq. 

58 - Their response was not surprising. The installation Mr Francis Lowcock ordered from Newton Bean & 
Mitchell in September that year was based on a 300 bhp, 150 rpm, condensing Uniflow, the latest type of 
reciprocating engine. (Perry, F. B. Proc. Inst. Mech. Engrs (1920), 731.) It operated at i6opsi and 6oo°F, 
had a rope drive to the main shaft of the mill, and a belt drive to a generator five times larger than gescl’s. 
It cost £4, ooo. The engine is now restored. (Masterson, H., yas ihs Newsletter 43 (1996), p. 15.) 

59 Mr Francis Lowcock required 75% of gescl’s gross receipts. He was now a shareholder through purchase 
of Mr Elliott’s shares. 

60 Crowther, J. Silva Gars (Keighley, 1930), p. xxx. 

61 The upper weir had been built about 1790 by previous owners, the Birbeck family of Settle, to provide 
additional storage in times of drought. (Raistrick, A. Old Yorkshire Dales (Newton Abbot, 1967), p. 91.) It was 
a constant concern of the Lowcocks that this reserve could be drained by gescl independently of the mill’s 



of this problem, the meeting adopted a proposal to put the company into voluntary 
liquidation, on the grounds that the level of its debts made it legally unable to continue 
in business. Having decided on this course, the directors then accepted an offer by lmecl, 
matching that of Mr Fisher, to buy the company. The liquidation proposal was endorsed 
at an egm in January 1921, the company secretary, Mr G. J. Harker, being appointed 
liquidator. The Gazette announced the last General Meeting of the company to be held 
at the Wilson Arms, Threshfield, on the 17th June 1924. 62 Mr Harker reported receipts 
of £1,007 l 4 s - 4 ^- an d payments of £988 19U 4 d. With the balance of £18 155., 
the company declared its one and only payment of 3 d. in the £, on its paid up capital of 


Available data on gescl’s performance are sparse (Table 2), but some analysis is possible. 
Until 1912, the company seems to have made steady progress, despite the unnecessary 
cost of the Pullan dispute. It was selling most if not all of its production capacity (61% 
committed by autumn 1910) and its income was sufficient to allow reduction of its 
initial debt. 

Lack of capital from sale of shares was the main problem. John Crowther deplored 
the lack of support from property owners and the Parish Council in those early years. 63 
However, two of the local gentry, Sir Matthew Wilson and his son-in-law, Major 
Roundell, did take shares. 64 Their interest may well have been to support Major 
Roundell’s political career, but Sir Matthew, in particular, had widespread investment 
interests and would have expected gescl to provide a reasonable return. Good electricity 
companies offered about 5% per annum at that time, with the prospect of additional 
bonuses. He sent his agent, Mr J. W. Broughton, to the Shareholders’ meeting in 1910, 
and attended the 1914 meeting in person, but was not convinced, apparently, that further 
investment would be worthwhile. 65 The Parish Councifs reluctance to invest, 66 on the 
other hand, may have reflected the view of the Dales’ farmers, who were chided in the 
local press for their opposition to the use of the parish rates to benefit Grassington 
dwellers. 67 

The early major investors seemed each to have a personal interest in the company. 
Mr Fielden already had tenants at the mill 68 and would want to encourage any new rent- 
paying undertaking on his property. Mr Lowcock, soon to buy Linton mill, would seek, 

Table 2 Some GESCL performance parameters 




1 9 1 2 


I 9 I 4 

I 9 I 7 

U l8 





1 100 

INCOME, (£) 



x 54 



39 1 




M 3 

62 - London Gazette (1924), May 16, 3983. 

63 - Crowther, J. Rambles around Grassington (York, 1920), p. 7, ‘... the promoter struggled four years — from 
1907 to 191 1 without the slightest help from the Parish Council or property owners.’ Also West Yorkshire 
Pioneer (1910), October. 

64 - Respectively £5° and £10. 

65 - In any case, he and Major Roundell were about to join their regiments on war service. 

66 - Craven Herald (1911), February. 

67 Craven Herald (1912), December. 

68 Halliwell & Wood, cotton manufacturers, and T. & A. Stockdale, corn merchants. 



naturally, to have some influence in gescl, which held water rights to the mill’s upper 
weir. In a different vein, Mr Lee had by his several benefactions evidenced an enduring 
fondness for his native village, and Mr Elliott, a substantial coal merchant in Bradford, 
had retired to live there. They had the will to support gescl, and the coal industry had 
provided them both with the means to do so. Although Mr Wall had property investments 
in the area, 69 and his Frielinghaus relatives lived in Grassington, the size of the Wall- 
Frielinghaus investment in 1912 suggests he was convinced of the company’s future 
profitability. His nephew’s attempt at the 1914 agm to see the company sold implies that 
he, an electrical engineer, had lost confidence in that prospect by then. The share sales 
at the 19 1 1 egm relieved the immediate capital shortage, but even if the mill dam failure 
had not then intervened, the early directors, not least Mr Crowther, seemed indisposed 
to settle for a small, if solvent, enterprise. 

Access to the substantial generating capacity at Finton mill enabled the directors to 
extend their distribution system, and thereby increase their income from consumers. 
However, consumer dissatisfaction with the quality of supply also pushed them to capital 
expenditure in old second-hand generating equipment requiring maintenance beyond 
the level of engineering competence they were prepared to employ. 70 The wave of new 
shareholders, represented by Mr Plunkett’s purchase of Mr Fielden’s shares in 1915, and 
by the group of investors — business people, many from Bradford, and mostly gescl 
consumers — who split Mr Wall’s large holding equally between them in 1917, seems to 
have reinforced the trend towards consumer orientation in company direction. Their 
purchase of shares did not increase gescl’s capitalisation, but they supported gescl’s 
provision of additional plant and favoured the Dadge plan 71 to augment gescl’s water 
generation capacity. This would have impinged further on efficient water-power manage- 
ment at the mill, and although Mr Plunkett failed to persuade his fellow shareholders to 
fund it, the move may have influenced the Lowcocks to consider it was time to buy gescl 
out. They had the capital, and the engineering resources at the mill, to make electricity 
supply the profitable symbiotic enterprise which fellow mill owners had found it to be. 
Acquiring gescl would also gain them operational control of the mill site and water 
supply, which Mr Fielden had let go. It was a commercial opportunity which the Lowcocks 
were well placed to evaluate and to take. 

How did that opportunity come about? One possibility is that there was simply an 
adverse cash flow unrelieved by corrective management action, perhaps through failure 
to impose a limit on growth of consumer demand and increase charges sufficiently to 
fund the enterprise fully. With reservations over the data, particularly for annual expendi- 
ture, 72 gescl’s trading position in the last few years of operation is shown in Fig. 6. The 
company’s vulnerability is not obvious here. Nor could the main problem have been 
funding long-term debt. Interest payment on the outstanding bank mortgage of only 
^40 0 73 would have placed little strain on the company. 

69 West Riding Registry of Deeds 46 (1906), 697. The owner of building land could welcome electric light 
development. ‘... electric lighting has been the salvation of landowners in that it has created a decided demand 
for land’. Fdectrical Review 70 (1912), p. 645. 

70 Directors’ decisions to spend capital on generating plant seem to have been taken always in Mr Lowcock’s 
absence, stirring him in 1914 to threaten protest at the agm. 

71 Its basis was ‘to utilise the water power at the top weir as much as possible’, with storage in a battery of 

/2 Annual Income data, from agm reports, are presumed accurate. Annual expenditure is assessed here by 
summing those individual items recorded in the minutes and probably understates the true total. Some 
expenditure on plant appears to be retained as capitalised items in accounts which are difficult to interpret 
without access to balance sheets. However, lmecl charges were very significant and are assumed correct. 

73 Liquidator’s report, pro bt 34/ 103392. 



The weight of lmecl charges were rising with growing consumer demand as gescl 
acted increasingly as lmecl’s agent (Fig. 7). 

The impact of this burden seems tolerable too, although subject to the Lowcock’s 
future charging policy. However, the liquidator’s report offers further insights, lmecl 
was owed an additional £146, and was, in fact, the only creditor in a position to threaten 
liquidation. 74 The report also highlights the trading weakness which left the company 
vulnerable to this threat. Income was lagging expenditure heavily. 75 While gescl’s debts 
were more than covered by income due to it, the outstanding debt due from consumers 
at liquidation stood at over £400, an d of this, a quarter was owed by directors and 
shareholders, past or present. The gescl Board was reluctant, apparently, to press its 
fellows for prompt payment, even at this juncture. Certainly, shareholders’ long term 
view was discouraging. No dividend had been paid since inauguration, none was now 
likely, and recovery of invested capital was doubtful. In this small close community, a 
perception that payment of electricity bills might prudently be avoided, or at least long 
delayed, might have spread rapidly. It may well be that it was this inability to collect 
consumer charges, joined with lmecl’s concern that recovery of its growing debt was 
becoming precarious, which triggered the liquidation decision. 

However it came about, the absorption of the gescl undertaking into the Lowcock 
family business lead to a step change. Hydro-generation capacity was increased both at 
the upper weir and at the mill, and the distribution system was mostly rebuilt. This 
required a much-needed capital injection of about £14,000, but income from the regener- 

■ EXPEND. (£) 
□ INCOME (£) 

Fig. 6. gescl Income and Expenditure in closing years (£). 












CO * 

■ INCOME (£) 


Fig. 7. lmecl Charge v. gescl Income (£) (* includes lmecl 
debt outstanding at Liquidation). 

74 The 1908 Companies Act (para. 130, section 1; para. 182, section 3) allowed anyone owed more than 
4)50, which a company could not pay within three weeks, to apply for a Court Order for its liquidation; it 
also allowed the less costly alternative of voluntary liquidation, if endorsed by a general meting of shareholders. 

75 The liquidator required two years to recover the outstanding debts from consumers. 



ated business, which doubled to £1,000 in the year following take-over, more than 
doubled again the following year , 76 and Lowcock family companies continued to provide 
the electricity supply of the area until nationalisation brought connection to the 
national grid. 


Acknowledgement is made to Mr Peter Fethney, Curator of Grassington Museum, for permission 
to use the minutes of the Grassington Electric Supply Co. Ltd; to the late Mr Griff Hollingshead 
for his encouragement and for altering his drawing to provide Fig. 1; to the late Mr Jack Dobson 
for permission to use his notebook which belonged formerly to Mr Harry Moss; to Ms Kirrane, 
Curator of the Graven Museum, for permission to use Figs. 2, 4 and 5; to the Bradford Telegraph 
& Argus for permission to use Fig. 3, copied from their 1959 edition; and to the Reference 
Librarians of Skipton, Bradford, and Preston Libraries and the West Yorkshire Archive Service, 
for their help. 

76 Lowcock, F. W. (1923). Statement in support of a mortgage application. 

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol.yi, iggg 





By R. Martlew and M. W. Holley 

In a recent reinterpretation of the evidence for lake-dwellings in Holderness, Van de 
Noort has commented on the influence of Swiss and Scottish excavations of the nineteenth 
century on interpretations of the Yorkshire evidence (Van de Noort 1995, 332), Perhaps 
the best known site of this category is the ‘crannog 1 in Semerwater, near Bainbridge in 
Wensleydale, due to the popular account by Dr Raistrick of a local legend connected 
with the site (Raistrick, 1968, 59—60). The location is noted with due circumspection in 
the Sites and Monuments Record, as the site of an ‘alleged 1 Iron Age crannog, but such 
caution tends to be overlooked in general references and the existence of the crannog 
has acquired a measure of acceptance. A reassessment of the recorded evidence for this 
site reveals an interesting process of archaeological myth-making, and contributes to the 
current debate on the nature of lake-dwellings. 

Since the end of the last century archaeological remains interpreted as lake-dwellings 
have been found in low-lying areas of eastern Yorkshire. In Vol. 30 of this journal the 
discovery of a ‘pile dwelling 1 near Costa Beck was reported by M. Kitson Clark (1930). 
Other pile dwellings have been noted near Barmston (Varley 1968), Ulrome and Skipsea 
(Smith 19 1 1). As Van de Noort has pointed out, the interpretation of these sites was 
initially strongly influenced by the evidence from Switzerland. Indeed, in reporting evi- 
dence from the Ribble near Preston in Lancashire, Cole drew parallels not only with the 
remains found by Boynton at Ulrome but also concluded that ‘Doubtless there were 
many lake-dwellings once in this country, as in Switzerland ...’ (Cole, 1889, 91). 

In his book on the Pennine Dales, Raistrick links a colourful legend to the remains of 
a ‘small platform set on piles in the edge of the lake 1 , revealed by dredging operations 
some 30 years previously (Raistrick 1968, 59). He does not use the term ‘crannog 1 . 
Newspaper clippings from 1938, held in the Sites and Monuments Record at the Yorkshire 
Dales National Park offices at Bainbridge, report a number of finds from around the lake 
margins following the work to lower the level of the lake. The finds appear to have 
comprised mostly animal bone, some of which had been worked. A looped bronze spear 
head was found by a member of a party of schoolchildren who were on holiday in the 
district. No records are available of where the objects were found, and many have 
presumably joined the wide range of worked flint from the area in private collections 
(Manby, 1986, 73 and Fig. 7.5 describes the spearhead, which is on display in the Dales 
Countryside Museum in Hawes). 

The lack of context for any of the finds is only further confused by the brief allusions 
to structural remains. Raistrick is the only person to mention timbers, and it is not clear 
whether he saw these at first hand; one of the newspaper reports describes a six-foot 
wide stone causeway leading into the lake. 

Local information has indicated that the ‘crannog 1 was located just off the north shore 
of the lake, near its midpoint at sd 91748735 (attributed to Mr D. Hall in the SMR, and 
Mr R. Minnitt pers. comm.). A circular patch of reeds at this location was investigated, 



along with the adjacent shore and bed of the lake. The reed bed, which is also clearly 
visible on vertical aerial photographs taken in 1951, was approximately 5 m into the lake 
at the time of the survey in December 1995, and 20 m in diameter. Underwater inspection 
failed to identify any evidence of stone or timber structures, and probing of the sediment 
did not locate any solid structure up to 0.5 m beneath the reed bed. The lake bed along 
this northern margin is covered with soft sediment at least 1 m in depth, and although 
water conditions were poor no evidence of structures was found within 50 m of the shore. 

Obvious major problems remain with the interpretation of this negative evidence, 
principally the location and nature of the dredging operations in 1937. No trace was 
found of the stone causeway referred to in the newspaper report, and in the absence of 
any detailed record this feature cannot be distinguished from stone footings that continue 
the line of a field wall into the lake. 

However, the fact that a causeway was originally claimed, and the terminology applied 
to the site, recalls Van de Noort’s view that early interpretations ‘were almost exclusively 
determined by the existing paradigm, rather than the archaeological evidence’ (Van de 
Noort 1995, 332). The newspaper reports of 1938 make no reference to timber piles or 
platforms, and merely generalise about the existence of ‘lake-dwellings’ on the shores of 
Semerwater. In 1911, Smith proposed the existence of ‘crannogs’ in Hornsea Mere, 
defining them specifically as ‘islands adapted for habitation’ (Smith, 1911, 593). In the 
rest of that paper he uses the terms ‘lake- dwellings’ or ‘pile dwellings’ to indicate platforms 
for huts, analagous to the Swiss sites. The first use of the term ‘crannog’ in relation to 
the Semerwater evidence is in the Sites and Monuments Record, repeated on the 
1 : 10,000 map. However, the specific term has been applied more frequently, and more 
appropriately, to the artificial island sites of Western Britain. Nothing resembling these 
island crannogs has been identified in Yorkshire. Stone causeways are a relatively common 
feature of such sites, but are rarely associated with pile dwellings. Even the circumstantial 
record that exists does not actually link the causeway at Semerwater to the ‘crannog’ 
site, and it may be that they both owe more to ‘the existing paradigm, rather than the 
archaeological evidence’. 

The wide range of artefacts collected from the shore of Semerwater, representing 
activity over several millennia, cannot, out of context, be used to distinguish between 
pile-dwellings standing in the water, and dry-land sites that have been inundated by 
rising lake levels. Further progress may be made through a study of the post-glacial 
sedimentary history of the lake, but, in the absence of archaeological evidence from 
carefully recorded contexts, the Semerwater ‘crannog’ must be consigned to the realm 
of legend. 


Clark, M. Kitson, 1930 ‘Iron Age Sites in the Vale of Pickering’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 30, pp. 157—72. 

Cole, E. M., 1889 ‘On a Lake-Dwelling Recently Discovered at Preston’, Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological 
and Polytechnic Society 1 1, pp. 90 -91. 

Manby, T. G., 1986 ‘The Bronze Age in Western Yorkshire’, in Manby, T. G. and Turnbull, P., Archaeology 
in the Pennines , British Archaeological Reports, British Series 158, pp. 55-126. 

Raistrick, A. 1968 Pennine Dales , London, Eyre and Spottiswoode. 

Varley, W. J. 1968 ‘Barmston and the Holderness Crannogs’, Journal of the East Riding Archaeological Society 1, 
pp. 12-33. 

Smith, R. A., 1911 ‘Lake-dwellings in Holderness, Yorkshire’, Archaeologia 62, pp. 593-610. 

Van de Noort, Robert, 1995 ‘West Lurze: the reconstruction of a monumental wetland landscape’, in R. Van 
de Noort and S. Ellis (eds) Wetland Heritage of Holderness An Archaeological Survey University of Hull, Humber 
Wetlands Project, pp. 323-34. 




By D. M. Palliser 

T. D. Hardy’s edition of the early Close Rolls printed an abstract of letters close sent in 
the name of the young Henry III to the sheriff of Yorkshire on 31 March 1224. The 
sheriff was informed that ‘we have granted to our beloved and faithful William de Percy 
that he may have, until our coming of age, a weekly market on Friday at his manor of 
Paffort’, unless that market be to the damage of neighbouring markets’. 1 The reference 
has not been used by McCutcheon or other writers on early Yorkshire markets, perhaps 
because the place-name does not correspond to any known Yorkshire manor. 

A possible explanation would be that Hardy had misread an initial N for a P, since 
Nafferton (East Riding) was a Percy manor, held by William and Richard de Percy in 
the early thirteenth century. 2 Examination of the original manuscript, however, showed 
that Hardy’s transcription was extremely accurate, and that the place-name does read 
Paffort ’. 3 Nevertheless, the most reasonable supposition is that a scribal error was involved, 
in the thirteenth century rather than the nineteenth, and that Nafferton was intended. 
Dr Allison has noted a short-lived market and fair granted to Henry de Percy in 1304 
for the small hamlet of Wansford in Nafferton manor, 4 though not any market grant for 
Nafferton itself. However, it would be surprising if the Percys had sponsored a market 
in Wansford without having first secured one for the much larger parent village. In 1609 
land in Nafferton was described as ‘at the north end of the town nigh the cross’, 5 perhaps 
a market cross. Certainly the reading of the Close Roll entry as Nafferton is sufficiently 
plausible to justify its inclusion in the latest mapping of East Rising markets in the middle 
ages, bringing to 43 the number of towns and villages known to have held a market, or 
at least to have been granted the right to do so, before 1500. 6 


Manors in Yorkshire can now be identified and their records located over the Internet 
by means of the Manorial Documents Register ( 

The Manorial Documents Register (MDR) records the nature and location of manorial 
records in England and Wales and has been maintained by the Historical Manuscripts 
Commission (HMC) since 1959. A three-year project run by HMC in association with 
the University of York Borthwick Institute of Historical Research has resulted in a revised 
and computerised version of the sections dealing with the three Yorkshire Ridings. 

The database uses ‘Microsoft Access’ together with ‘Active Server Pages’ which allow 
it to be consulted over the Internet. A series of search screens leads users through the 
database, which is searched by making selections from a series of drop down lists. Having 
selected the East, West or North Riding, one of four types of searches may be chosen. 
At the simplest level, records for individual manors can be located by selecting the ‘Manor 
search’ option. This will display a list of all the manors in the chosen Riding. The list is 
arranged in alphabetical order and includes all the names by which a manor may have 

1 Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum in Turri Londinensi Asservati, 1204-2J , ed. T. D. Hardy, Vol.i (Record Commission, 
i 833), 591. I owe this reference to Professor R. H. Britnell. 

2 - The Victoria County History of Yorkshire: East Riding , Vol. II, ed. K. J. Allison (1974), p. 285. 

3 - Public Record Office, C54/ 30, m. 9. 

4 V.C.H. East Riding , Vol. II. p. 288. 

5 - Ibid. 

6 - D. M. Palliser, ‘Markets and towns in the middle ages’, in An Historical Atlas of the East Riding of Yorkshire , 
eds S. Neave and S. Ellis (1996), pp. 74-75, 146. Forty-one places had a market and fair, two (Hunmanby 
and Nafferton) a market but no known fair, and one (Hornsea) a fair but no known market. 



been known (variants and aliases appearing in lower case and manor names which have 
been allocated as standard appearing in upper case). Once a manor name has been 
selected, a further screen provides information about that manor, such as the parish in 
which it is centred, the number of records, the name of the honour it was part of, if any, 
and cross-references to other manors. 

Individual documents, and runs of documents where there are no substantial gaps in 
the date sequence, are displayed in chronological order. Descriptions include an indi- 
cation of the quantity and physical format of the records, the location, repository reference 
number and references to published editions of documents, transcriptions, translations 
and modern copies. 

All the records for a manor can be retrieved, but searches can also be confined to: 
records of a particular type, for example court roll or account; 
records deposited in a particular record repository; 
a date or range of dates. 

Any combination of these search options can be made, or none at all. 

A ‘County search’ allows wider searches to be made across each riding. For example, 
all the 9,000 records for manors in the West Riding can be displayed, but such a search 
can also be defined by dates, record repository or keyword as described above; for 
example, thirteenth-century accounts for manors in the West Riding can be retrieved. 
An ‘Honour search 1 lists the honours in a county, identifies the manors included in an 
honour and displays the records for these manors. A ‘Parish search’ lists the parishes in 
a county which are linked to a manor in the MDR, identifies the manors to which a 
parish is linked and displays the records for these manors. The parish used is generally 
the ancient ecclesiastical parish in which the majority of the manor lay. Each manor is 
linked to one parish only and no attempt has been made to identify all the parishes which 
may have been covered by a manor. The manors selected by these wider searches are 
displayed alphabetically; the records for each are displayed chronologically. 

The MDR is accessed via the HMC’s website ( Print-outs 
and copies of the database are also available at the Borthwick Institute, North Yorkshire 
County Record Office, East Riding of Yorkshire Archive Service, Sheffield Archives, the 
Yorkshire Archaeological Society and other branches of the West Yorkshire Archive 
Service. A general information leaflet about the MDR is available from the Historical 
Manuscripts Commission, Quality House, Quality Court, Chancery Lane, London 
WC2A i hp, to whom enquiries concerning records for manors in other counties should 
be addressed. The latest in the series of Borthwick Wallets provides examples of sixteenth 
to eighteenth century Yorkshire manorial documents together with transcriptions and 
notes demonstrating the sort of information which can be extracted from them. Borthwick 
Wallet 8 is available from the Secretary, Borthwick Institute, St Anthony’s Hall, York 


Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol.yi, iggg 



JOHN TELFORD 1926-1998 

Members of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society were saddened by the news last October of John 
Telford’s sudden death, whilst on holiday in the United States. 

John was born in Workington, Cumberland in 1926. His father, who was a railwayman, moved 
to Yorkshire when he was ten years old. John became a railwayman too, though this was interrupted 
in 1943, when at 17 he volunteered to join the Navy. In due course he was assigned to convoy 
duty and was on the last convoy of the war to Russia. He was then sent to the Far East, war with 
Japan at this point still continuing. With the coming of peace, John returned to Yorkshire, but he 
maintained a lifelong interest in naval matters, especially sailing ships and the Navy in Nelson’s 

John Telford’s working life was spent, like his father, as a railwayman. He became a traffic 
controller in Leeds, retiring in 1982. By then he had already developed a strong interest in 
archaeology and had been on a number of digs. He was also a member of the Yorkshire 
Archaeological Society, having joined some years before when David Michelmore was Librarian. 

After retirement, he began coming to ‘Claremont’ more frequently, particularly attending meet- 
ings of the Roman Antiquities Section. He became concerned too about the Society’s slide collec- 
tion, which he began to catalogue by person, place or subject in 1984, very little work having 
previously been done. The work was often slow, as many of the slides had no identification labels, 
but John took great pride in eventually placing most of them. From then on his interest in the 
YAS’s photographic collection as a whole deepened and his time spent at ‘Claremont’ increased 
correspondingly, until he was averaging three days a week. For more than a decade, John sorted 
and indexed this material, recorded new donations, and reported on the progress being made to 
Council or in the ‘Library and Archives Newsletter’. At the time of his death, he was working on 
the largest collection so far received by the Society. It was formed by the late Pauline Routh, a 
Family History Section member who specialised in the study of alabaster monumental effigies. 
John’s own interests in monumental brasses and in heraldry were especially helpful in enabling 
him to begin to record this huge collection. Three years on from its arrival in 1995, John had 
made major inroads into this work. His love of what he was doing was always evident and his 
curiosity about the photographs he was assessing was infectious. His achievement in respect of this 
aspect of the YAS’s activities was outstanding and users of the photographic collection in years to 
come will have cause to be grateful for his dedication. 

John also made an important contribution to the development of the West Yorkshire Archive 
Service’s computer database of accessions, originating and checking many thousands of entries on 
a laptop computer specially assigned to him for this purpose. His enquiring spirit and his eye for 
detail equipped him well for this demanding task: compiling entries about the various groups of 
archives held by the Service, and indexing them to allow computer-based retrieval. The Lottery- 
Funded ‘Archive Listings Access Project’ will incorporate the entries which John made, and provide 
public access to them on a permanent basis. 

Outside ‘Claremont’, John’s archaeological interests continued. Each year, with his wife Brenda, 
he attended digs on pre-historic sites in Wales and Roman sites in Northamptonshire. These were 
greatly looked forward to. He was also a member of the Yorkshire Heraldry Society, and a leading 
member of the Aireborough and Horsforth Museum Society, being President twice. There too, 
he looked after the photographic collection, and gave talks about old photographs. 

A member of Council and a dedicated Library helper, John’s contribution to the Society he 
loved cannot be exaggerated. He is greatly missed. 

Claremont, Leeds 

Robert Frost 

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Vol.yi, / 999 



By judith burg. 24.5 x 1 7 cm. Pp. xiv and 240. Borthwick Texts and Calendars 22. Price: £1 1.50 
(plus 7^ I - 2 5 P- & P- from The Borthwick Institute, York yoi 2PW.) 

This latest addition to the long running series, Borthwick Texts and Calendars, provides an 
excellent introduction to the archives of the well-known Company, Rowntree Mackintosh, mainly 
deposited at the Borthwick Institute by Nestle in 1992. However, as little was sent following the 
merger of Rowntree & Co. and John Mackintosh & Sons in 1969, the Guide does not include 
very recent material. The archives of John Mackintosh Ltd and John Mackintosh & Sons Ltd are 
also much less complete than those of Rowntree & Co. Nevertheless the useful introduction 
contains a good deal of information about both Companies, their respective histories, and how 
they were structured and organised. Following on from this, the main body of the Guide comprises 
details of the records, which survive, using a clear, concise and easy to follow classification. The 
lay-out is attractive with headings high-lighted. There is also a comprehensive index, which enables 
the user to get the best from the information provided. Because this is such a pleasantly produced 
book, the lack of any illustrative material, perhaps from the fascinating ephemera section, does 
seem more of an omission than it otherwise would. This apart, all in all this is a well designed, 
sensibly produced example of its kind, which will be of great interest and assistance to those who 
wish to use these records in the future. 

Claremont, Leeds Robert Frost 

1812-1837 Edited by janice e. growther and peter a. growther. Pp. 667. Pis. 8. Maps 5. The 
British Academy Records of Social and Economic History, New Series 26, Oxford University 
Press for the British Academy, 1997. isbn o 19 7261736. Price: £35. 

This is a most welcome publication for there are few diaries that can compare, both as a good 
read and an invaluable historical source, with this detailed daily journal kept by a Yorkshire village 
schoolmaster in the 1820S-30S. Robert Sharp the diarist was born at Barmston on the East Yorkshire 
coast in 1773, the son of a shepherd. Moving to Bridlington he became a shoemaker but, as with 
many of his trade, continued his self-education and eventually in 1804 was appointed schoolmaster 
at South Cave, a market village twelve miles west of Hull, a post he retained until his death in 1843. 

The surviving diary covers the period 19 May 1826 to 5 June 1837, and is complete except for 
the whole of 1828 and two and a half months at the end of 1835. The original diary, which was 
despatched in instalments to Sharp’s son William, who worked for the London publishers 
Longman’s, is now in the care of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council Archives Service. 

Sharp, in addition to running the boys’ school, was also a tax collector, deputy constable, clerk 
of the friendly society, land surveyor, sometime shopkeeper and general village scribe. The school 
is barely mentioned in the diary, nor the pupils, but Sharp was well placed to chronicle, often 
critically, the lives of his fellow villagers and record local and national events. He was an avid 
reader of newspapers and journals. Nonconformist in religion and a moderate radical in politics 
Sharp, a disciple of Cobbett, had little time for the views and actions of the local farmers, land- 
owners and Anglican clergy. 

Commenting on the impact of enclosure on a nearby parish in 1826 he wrote. ‘The last time I 
was at Ferriby I saw what may be called the first fruits of an Inclosure, viz. A Board put up with 
notice that any person trespassing on the land would be prosecuted. No walking in the field now 



without danger of the tread mill, nothing now but dust to gratify the weary traveller’. He was not 
sympathetic to the New Poor Law and the effectiveness of local Guardians who had ‘to obey the 
commands of their Superiors the high & mighty Commissioners’. But he was equally critical of 
the old culture decrying the ‘sets of Plough Boys going about with their trumpery Music and 
Rattly Drums — there wants a reform here’. 

The extent of the diary, containing some 260,000 words, has defeated previous transcribers and 
potential publishers. Jan and Peter Crowther are to be congratulated on their perseverance in 
producing this superb edition of the diary which the British Academy has published in its entirety. 
Along with a series of letters written to Sharp’s son William in the years 1812-25. The text is 
accompanied by excellent footnotes, most useful appendices and an admirably comprehensive 

University of Hull 

David Neave 

lated by B. ENGLISH. 22 X 14 CIll. P P . 342. PI. i. End-paper maps. Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 
Record Series, cli, Leeds, 1996. isbn o 902122 75 4. Price: £27 YAS members; £30 non-members. 

The reign of Edward I witnessed a series of major royal inquisitions, remarkable alike for their 
ambitious scope and for the abundance of surviving records. The wealth of information which 
these preserve, touching in detail on land-holding, social life and government in the shires renders 
them a first-rate source for the local historian. Consulting them, however, has hitherto usually 
meant getting to grips with the heavily abbreviated Latin of the Record Commission editions, 
published early in the last century. Professor English’s attractive volume of translated documents 
from Yorkshire therefore represents a substantial and welcome step towards making the fruits of 
the Edwardian inquests more widely and conveniently accessible. The volume prints the results 
of the two inquisitions from which Yorkshire material survives: the wide-ranging ‘ragman’ inquest 
of 1274-75; an< 5 the Quo warranto investigations into rights and liberties, conducted for Yorkshire 
in sessions of 1279-81 and 1293-94. Each of these complements and illuminates the other, 
although it is the ‘ragman’ returns that have the greater range of information. Records from the 
1274—75 inquiry are admittedly less substantial than for some counties, since there survive from 
Yorkshire no original returns but only an ‘extract’ roll, with edited summaries of hundredal testi- 
mony, produced subsequently for uncertain official purposes. Its compilers unfortunately omitted 
many details valuable to the local historian, such as the names of hundred jurors and the identities 
of many of those caught up in local wrongdoings. Nonetheless, the Yorkshire extract contains a 
wealth of information relating to land-holding and fiefs, liberties, the misdeeds of royal and seignor- 
ial officials, and infringements of the king’s rights in the county. Much is revealed concerning the 
working of local government, and this matches fully the picture of rampant bribe-taking, extortion 
and (occasionally ingenious) racketeering familiar from elsewhere. But there is also considerable 
material illuminating social life and economic activity, with information on boroughs and vills, 
and on the wool trade. The Quo warranto returns likewise show considerable variety in detail, 
including, for example, much evidence relating to fairs and markets, as well as to other liberties 
and tenure. 

The new edition marks in certain respects an advance on the Record Commission volumes: 
opportunity has been taken to check, and where necessary to amend, the transcription; and the 
1 293-94 Quo warranto returns here follow a better manuscript than the one adopted for the earlier 
edition. Editing and translation maintain a high standard, and generally achieve a sensible rec- 
onciliation of the demands of fidelity and readability. Professor English provides a clear and concise 
introduction, illuminating the character and context of the records. The volume is further enhanced 
by a thorough index of persons and places, a glossary, a map, and small photographs of samples 
from the manuscripts. 

University of Durham 

Len Scales 



EXCAVATIONS IN HULL, 1975-76. By d. h. evans. 29.5x21 cm. Pp. 216. Figs 130. Tables 
100. Pis 18. Microfiches 3. Hull Old Town Report 2, Beverley 1994. Price: £18. issn 0012 852X. 

The excavations reported in this volume were carried out as a response to the clearance of a large 
swathe of land through the southern part of the Old Town for the construction of a southern 
orbital road. The volume covers five main sites, some of which are themselves amalgamations of 
more than one site. In addition, pottery from several more sites, which has not been previously 
published, is included. The volume is therefore an important contribution to the archaeology of 
a town that grew during the late Middle Ages into one of the major ports of the East Coast. 

A variety of site type is represented, urban domestic and industrial, civic buildings (the Gaol) 
and the formal gardens of the Augustinian Eriary. The short three page introduction gives, I feel, 
only a glimpse of what must have been a Herculean task in preparing this volume for publication. 
Those involved in urban excavations during the seventies will remember the challenges faced at 
large, complex and heavily disturbed sites being excavated with inadequate resources. Rescuing 
the information was the primary concern and publication was a distant second for the future. 
That future has now arrived and the volume inevitably reflects the circumstances of excavation 
and preparation. Passing snippets hint at the difficulties faced. I particularly sympathised with 
those faced with a Gas Board determined to lay a gas main across a site. One hopes that could 
not happen today! 

Many different authors have contributed their reports and this is inevitably reflected in differ- 
ences of treatment and organisation. The volume comprises three main sections: the excavation 
reports, the finds reports and the environmental reports. There are also fiches which contain the 
majority of the tables for the finds summaries. There is a colossal amount of information recorded 
in these sections. In spite of difficulties imposed by later destruction, many details of medieval 
buildings and construction were recovered and developments in methods and materials are hinted 
at. The sites produced impressive assemblages of finds, particularly pottery, and this leads me to 
one of my main quibbles with the volume. The finds are all located in a quite different section of 
the book from the site descriptions. Although there is consistent cross-referencing, it is hard work 
going back and forth to find out how rich or poor the assemblage from one particular phase was. 
Even a general impression is most helpful in gaining a correct estimate of the significance of a 
particular phase or structure. I think that this is particularly important for the medieval period 
where quite non-descript and insubstantial remains may be all that is left of impressive and high 
status buildings. Of course, there is no easy or ‘correct’ arrangement and what is convenient for 
one researcher may well be most awkward for another. 

The other feature that I would have much appreciated, particularly as a stranger to Hull, is an 
overview section drawing together various themes and significances of the discoveries. The develop- 
ment of construction techniques has been referred to above. Another theme is the nature and 
intensity of development. At Chester, it is notable that expansion and prosperity appears to extend 
well into the fourteenth century (a period which includes Edward I’s conquest of Wales) to be 
followed by stagnation. Only from the end of the fifteenth century is expansion resumed, but then 
gathers momentum with properties becoming increasingly subdivided. One can perhaps also ident- 
ify the start of a downgrading of the old historic core with higher status occupation moving to the 
land of dissolved religious houses and the new suburbs. Such a process became extreme by the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I wonder how far Kingston with its late start and royal 
patronage follows this trend. Another theme specific to Kingston upon Hull which the reports 
allude to but do not draw together, is the dumping of clay and other material to counteract rising 
water levels and flooding. 

Not withstanding the above, this volume is a major achievement. It represents the completion 
of the publication of virtually all the excavations carried out in Hull during the 1970s. Would that 
other towns could claim as much! The volume is a worthy product of the dedication and persistence 
of a great many people. It can perhaps also be seen, with a nostalgic tint, as a reminder of a 
golden age, an era and a spirit of archaeology that has passed away under PPG 16 and contracting 

Grosvenor Museum, Chester 

Simon Ward 



A HISTORY OF TODMORDEN. By Malcolm and Freda Heywood and Bernard Jennings. 
25 X 17.5 cm. Pp. viii and 258. Pis 136 (30 in colour). Otley: Smith Settle, 1996. Price: -jC 12.95. 

The book takes the form of a collection of essays grouped into 1 3 chapters which takes the reader 
through the human occupation of the Todmorden area from c. 2500 bc to the present. Its main 
theme is the development of the dual economy and the qualities of the environment and its 
inhabitants which led to the introduction of cotton and industrial growth. Sources are clearly 
explained and analysed, and the use of wills and inventories to describe the life and economy of 
the yeoman farmer in chapter four is excellent. The amount of information available to historians 
of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries naturally results in a far more detailed study which takes 
over half the text. 

The writing is clear, the quotes and useful headings making it a ‘good read’ for all those with 
an interest in history. It is also possible to dip into the list of contents and follow individual topics 
through the text: for example farming, from chapter 2 (‘Farming Systems’) through chapter 4 
(‘Farming’) to chapter 10 (‘Changes in Patterns of Agriculture’). 

The book is of value not only to those born and raised locally. The careful insertion of wider 
social and political history to help the reader understand the context of local history is masterly. 
While ‘Todmordonians’ will find the contents fascinating, the background information on topics 
such as textile history and nineteenth-century social unrest is an education for all. For those not 
very familiar with the area, the maps are confusing and a standard format, with the position of 
the present town shown, would have helped. 

The fine illustrations greatly enhance the appearance of the book, but sadly they are not 
integrated into the text. For example: the old photograph of Stansfield View Workhouse on p. 142 
has no link with the relevant text on the previous page, and can only be found via the references 
for Todmorden Board of Guardians in the index. Lawrence Greenwood’s five lovely watercolours 
and reconstruction drawings are bright and confident (although the use of so many (26) reconstruc- 
tions left the reviewer longing for some information on the sources used). The clarity of the line 
drawings contrasts with the variable quality of the colour photographs (pp. 44, 45). 

The quality of the index affects all aspects of the use of a book, and the reviewer would like to 
see professional indexers used whenever possible, and their work acknowledged. The inclusion of 
a broad subject heading such as ‘Todmorden’ (see above) and ‘religious life’ which the reviewer 
found after a search for ‘Society of Friends/Quakers’ can conceal rather than reveal the 
information sought. 

Altogether this is a valuable addition to the important series of books about Calderdale, produced 
by members of Professor Jennings’s local history group. 

Carleton, Skipton Sue Wrathmell 

ARMY OF THE FAIRFAXES, 1642-3. By a. j. hopper. Pp. 27. University of York. Borthwick 
Paper No. 92. Price: £3 (plus 35P p. & p). isbn 0524 0913. 

The author gives us an insight into the relations between the various strata of society at the 
beginning of the Civil War and explores the nature of parliamentarian support in Yorkshire. Our 
county was both the scene of the first open defiance of the King (when he was denied entry into 
Hull ...) and also where Charles began raising his army. The monarch failed to win solid support 
among the already divided population, and many of the gentry and nobles still hoped the dispute 
would not escalate into war. Indeed, Ferdinando, Lord Fairfax, even after the beginning of his 
own recruiting campaign, negotiated a treaty of neutrality with the leading Royalists of Rothwell 
though this did not have the approval of parliament and was soon dissolved through the active 
opposition of the Hothams of Hull. 

Recruiting began in earnest in October 1642 and news of atrocities committed by the Catholic 
forces during the Irish rebellion, widely reported in contemporary pamphlets, did much to encour- 
age anti-royalist feeling among the ‘commons’. Radicalism was encouraged by individuals such as 
Peace Thomas Stockdale, friend and agent of Lord Fairfax; the reply to the Royalist attack on 



Bradford was in the nature of a popular uprising after most of the gentry and wealthier elements 
of society had fled. These ‘insurgents’ were eagerly recruited into Fairfax’s army in contrast to 
other parts of the country where active groups of artisans and yeomen were regarded with deep 
suspicion, not to say fear. The Moorlanders, the Pennine folk of Stafford, and the men of Lewes 
in Sussex were left floundering when the gentry refused to support them, while the popular uprising 
which followed Prince Rupert’s sack of Cirencester was also left to die away without aid from the 
upper echelons of society. 

The first great test of Fairfax’s army came in June 1643 when the Duke of Newcastle led his 
army into the West Riding to strike at the heart of popular parliamentarian resistance. Fairfax’s 
army was poorly supplied with horse and the potentially massive fire power of his enthusiastic 
infantry was probably weakened by a shortage of powder and shot, too much having been shipped 
south out of the Hull arsenal by Lord Hotham. The result was defeat at Adwalton Moor and the 
temporary dispersal of Fairfax’s staunch company of clothiers, blacksmiths, weavers, grocers, cord- 
wainers and the like. However, they readily signed up again as the Parliamentarians regrouped. 
Even after the war and following the Restoration West Yorkshire, especially Leeds and Bradford, 
was a stronghold of radicalism. There were numerous individual acts of sedition and these two 
towns were the centre of the Northern Uprisings of 1663. 

Based on extensive research the 20 pages of main text are supported by 163 end notes. The 
reviewer would like to see this material presented on a larger canvas with much more of the detail 
than the present essay allows. 

Hull Museums Arthur G. Credland 

ON ILKLA MOOAR BAHT ‘AT. THE STORY OF THE SONG. By Arnold kellett. Pp. viii 
and 138. Ulus. 32. Smith Settle, Otley, 1998. Price: £7.95. 

This lively investigation of the origins of ‘The Yorkshire Anthem’ covers other related topics, 
including the history of Ilkley and of Methodism, the topography of the Moor, Yorkshire dialect 
and the murder of Mary Jane. One certain fact about the song is that the tune was written by 
Thomas Clark (d. 1859), a Methodist boot and shoe seller and choirmaster from Canterbury. It 
was called ‘Cranbrook’ after a Kentish village and published in 1805. The words were first pub- 
lished in 1916 but seem to have been composed as early as i860, perhaps by members of a Halifax 
chapel choir on an outing to Ilkley Moor. The form was a dialogue between a man and his mother 
but there are several variants and as many as twelve alternative locations from Luddenden Foot 
to Oldham Edge. Fictitious origins for the composition, including one based on the discovery of 
a woman’s skeleton, are discussed and the style is related to the dialect poems of John Horsley. 
There is a paraphrase in the style of Longfellow and a setting of 1946 by Eric Fenby as an overture 
in the style of Rossini. A good bibliography gives further reading for those whose appetite has 
been whetted by Dr Kellett’s enthusiasm. 

York R. M. Butler 

21 x 14.5 cm. Pp. 40. Borthwick Paper No. 93. York: Borthwick Institute, 1997. Price: £3 (plus 

35 P P- & P)- 

The Franciscan custody of York comprised four Yorkshire houses (York, Beverley, Doncaster, 
Scarborough) and three in Lincolnshire (Boston, Grimsby, Lincoln). Their origins are briefly 
discussed and the activity of the custodial officials in administering the seven houses is indicated 
with special attention paid to libraries and educational tasks. The section on liturgical practices 
highlights the friars’ participation in funeral processions and the collecting of alms, but it also 
focuses on their preaching, both in the city where their friary stood but also in itinerant campaigns. 
These high profile activities enhanced their presence within each town but also attracted kings to 
attend services in their churches and bestow gifts on the friaries. A final chapter explores their 



relationship with the local towns and cities, and notes the occupations of those inhabitants who 
remembered the mendicant friars in their wills. 

The entire booklet is carefully supported by footnotes; sometimes the same incident is used in 
two or more different contexts. Occasionally, as in the dispute between John Pudsay and Henry 
Lescrop in 1415 over the latter’s abducted wife, there is insufficient background to a particular 
episode. Generally the author displays both a detailed knowledge of the political history of northern 
England and of the wider European setting of the Franciscan order. This study provides a useful 
commentary on local urban history. 


Lawrence Butler 

sharples. 21 x 1 3.5 cm. Pp. xiv and 210. Pis. 6. Tables 17. Maps 8. Publications of the Thoresby 
Society, second series, vol. 6 for 1995. Leeds, 1997. Price: £15. 

Marian Sharpies introduces the Fawkes family of Farnley Hall as ‘a distinguished and influential 
Yorkshire landowning family’, their estate comprising ‘one of the major landholdings in England’. 
Her account of its fortunes from 1819 to 1936 reveals further family attributes: considerable 
business acumen and dedication, generosity both to family and tenants, and public service in 
political, social and agricultural spheres. 

The year 1819 saw the formation by Walter Fawkes of the Fawkes Trust Estate, to be superseded 
by the Farnley Hall Trust in 1900. Under the 1819 settlement the estate was leased to trustees 
who in turn leased it back to Walter Fawkes as tenant-for-life, the succession being limited to 
named tenants-for-life. ‘Portions’ for the younger children and jointures’ for widows were 
arranged, but more importantly a limit was put on the degree to which the estate could be 
mortgaged, and tenants-for-life were forbidden from selling land without the consent of Chancery 
or through the estates’ trustees. 

These restrictions, protecting the estate from ‘unwise or profligate’ heirs, served the family well. 
Unlike the neighbouring Ibbetsons of Denton Hall the Fawkes remained untroubled by family 
irresponsibility, the six subsequent tenants-for-life, with able professional help, running the estate 
with foresight and initiative. The Fawkes’ major contribution to agriculture was probably the 
development of its herd of shorthorn cattle, dual-purpose animals, producing good milkers as well 
as early maturing beasts. Its young bulls were exported to Europe and beyond and by the early 
twentieth century the breed dominated British cattle-breeding. The family’s commitment to 
improved methods of agriculture was also expressed in its close involvement in the establishment 
of the Wharfedale Agricultural Society in 1805/6, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society in 1837, 
(Hawksworth Fawkes was an early judge of turnip cultivation) and in Ayscough Fawkes’ member- 
ship of the Joint Council for Agricultural Education in Yorkshire, later the advisory committee on 
agriculture to The Yorkshire College, of which he was a life governor. 

Hawksworth Fawkes, tenant-for-life from 1825 to 1 87 1 , fully exploited contemporary govern- 
ment legislation, buying the freehold of the copyhold part of his estate, and borrowing under the 
Drainage Act of 1840. The 1840s also saw land sold to the North Eastern Railway and in the 
1 860s land was compulsorily purchased by Leeds Corporation (at the generous price of -£310 per 
acre) for the Washburn valley complex of reservoirs. Hawksworth’s successor, Ayscough, made 
further sales, the most notable being property at Menston sold to the West Riding Asylum Board. 
This contraction in the estate was largely offset by the purchase of land nearer Farnley to 
consolidate the ‘heartlands’. 

Ayscough Fawkes met the late nineteenth century ‘Great Depression’ by investing substantially 
in his livestock and opening two dairies, intended to be run as cooperatives with his tenants, at 
Farnley Hall itself and at Harrogate, so cutting out the middleman. The depression was less severe 
in areas near expanding towns, such as Farnley, where demand for dairy products and beef, and 
for secondary products such as leather, paper and tallow, continued to grow. But the lean years 
took their toll. In 1890 Ayscough Fawkes had a major sale of paintings to consolidate his dairying 



enterprise and in 1899, the year he died, he not only sold the dairy business but also the entire 
herd of shorthorns along with his racing stud. 

His successor, Frederick Fawkes, described as ‘an exceptional landowner’, quickly reestablished 
a shorthorn herd and invested steadily in working and fixed capital. Taking advantage of his 
financial ability to exploit the new machinery, fertilisers and cheap imports of grain he took in 
hand much marginal land, although this initiative was not universally successful, the agent ventur- 
ing that ‘farming solely by hired labour is not a success, as the men have not a real interest in 
their work 1 . Overall he was unable to prevent further erosion of the estate, between 1900 and 
1927 the acreage being reduced to half, although Farnley Park itself was little altered. 

In addition to overseeing his estate, Frederick Fawkes served his locality and county as Member 
of Parliament for Pudsey and Otley (1922/23) and as High Sheriff for Yorkshire (1932). Nearer 
home in 1926 he gave Wharfedale Meadows to the people of Otley and was generous in periodically 
making the surviving core of the Farnley Hall Turner paintings available to the public. He died, 
(’probably as he would have chosen’ comments Marian Sharpies) hunting with the Bramham 
Moor over his own land. 

The account is based on an M.Phil. thesis awarded by the University of Leeds in 1993. 
Unfortunately ill health prevented Marian Sharpies from preparing the text for publication, a task 
which was undertaken by her academic supervisors and the Thoresby Society’s Honorary Editors. 
There is a useful index, and the extensive bibliography and source references will be welcomed 
by those working in similar fields. The author’s obvious affinity with the Wharfedale countryside 
results in a warmly written account, which it is sad that she did not live to see in print. 

Pudsey Ruth Strong 

LADY ANNE CLIFFORD By r. t. spenge. 24 x 16 cm. Pp. xvi and 300. Pis. 98. Tables 14. Maps 
3. Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 1997. isbn o 7509 1311 8. Price: £20. 

Dick Spence has been working on the Clifford family for more than 40 years. His fourth book on 
them treats of arguably the most famous Clifford, Lady Anne. This scholarly, detailed but lucidly 
argued, work uses a wide range of evidence including contemporary printed books, buildings, and 
memorials; some of the manuscripts and paintings are in private collections. It is neatly produced, 
though buyers might regret that the only colour illustrations are on the dust jacket. But some 
recent pieces featuring Lady Anne do not appear in the bibliography. Given that modern concern 
with Anne Clifford goes back to c. 1920, and that she is of interest to Women’s History, readers 
less familiar with her and the Cliffords might have welcomed an introduction to past work and 
new perspectives. 

What Dr Spence does, with aplomb, is to take us chronologically through Anne’s life. Her 
formative years came under her mother’s, rather than her father’s, influence, and the well educated 
youngster attended the courts of Elizabeth I and James I. It was her mother who taught Anne to 
fight for her lands, for, without a surviving male child, her father had left her a £15,000 portion, 
but the Clifford lands to his brother, subject to Anne’s mother’s jointure estate. Dr Spence ironically 
concludes that Lady Anne was fortunate not to have immediately inherited her father’s debt- 
ridden estates. Not until the death of her father’s nephew in 1643 did the lands pass to Anne’s 
second husband in her right, and return to her at her widowhood in 1650. Lady Anne’s stubborn 
refusal to agree in 1617 to King James’ adjudication of her father’s settlement meant years of 
uncertainty for her family and their tenants in Westmorland and Yorkshire. Dr Spence successfully 
interweaves the great inheritance dispute with chapters on Anne as Countess, then dowager of 
Dorset, and as a mother, and as Countess of Pembroke after her second marriage to that earl in 
1630. Both marriages had their ups and downs, and the happier one, with Dorset, suffered from 
the inheritance dispute. Briefly a courtier again, Anne separated from Pembroke in 1634, though 
he continued to give her legal support. Her two jointure estates, in the south, became tributes to 
the expensive impact of the long-lived widow on landed families. 

Then follow her struggles with her Skipton and Westmorland tenants to overthrow, as a wealthy, 
determined, and hard hitting litigant, as many vestiges of the 1617 award as she could. In Yorkshire 



she unsuccessfully attempted to resurrect outmoded administrative divisions, which she could 
control, and upset the county governing elite. There is no space to place Anne effectively in the 
county context in either Yorkshire or Westmorland, where she was hereditary sheriff Nor space 
to throw light on her, mostly male, officers. Overawed by her status, they were rewarded with 
favourable estate leases. Some helped with keeping Anne’s ‘diaries’, and to write out the Great 
Books of Record of the inheritance dispute, which contain the evidence for Anne’s lawsuits. Noted 
antiquaries, including Roger Dodsworth, did much research and Anne’s mother herself had found 
vital material in the Tower. Another surviving record of the dispute is the Appleby triptych, shown 
to be a piece of pictorial family propaganda. Dr Spence is right to conclude (p. 253) that Anne’s 
economic impact in the north needs assessment. But alongside her spending in the dales, and not 
only as a rebuilder of Clifford castles, her investments in the London money market, and her 
lawsuits, must have drained money from the north and damaged her tenants, despite her, and Dr 
Spence’s, claims to the contrary. 

University of Manchester B. Phillips 


4 (in bicolour). R.C.H.M. England, 1997. isbn i 873592 31 o. 

Studies of landscapes, both ancient and modern, are the present vogue having in turn replaced 
environmental and settlement studies in publishers’ lists. The Royal Commission for Historical 
Monuments in England published the last of their well established county monographs — that on 
N. Northamptonshire — in 1985, since then only thematic publications have been produced. This 
newly published work is not a multi-period analysis, though there is an eight page ‘Survey Setting’ 
introducing the area to any unfamiliar with it. It presents a detailed transcription of 35,000 air 
photographs onto ‘maps ... which are intended to serve as a visual index to ... cropmarks and 
soilmarks, the outline of human activity through several millennia’. This survey must be considered 
as a rchme’s Inventory, and as such is the major archaeological resource for the Wolds planning 
and amenity authorities. It is solely a research tool, but to ignore all shadow sites seriously devalues 
the exercise. We see those interrupted ditches of the suggested henge, photographed like hundreds 
of other sites by Derrick Riley, centred on Duggleby Howe but not the neolithic round barrow 
though it can be made out on the faint grey inked o.s. base map. The same is true for Wharram 
Percy, a few ditches but no earthworks, and larger still, the Huggate Dikes are mapped in red for 
less than 500 m while to both east and west the free standing banks and therefore the ditches 
between them of Horsdale and Frendaldale continue as barely visible grey outlines for eight times 
that distance. 

The four folded reference maps are standard 1 : 25,000 uncontoured Ordnance Survey outlines 
printed in a faint grey with the archaeological detail shown in red. The size and quality of the 
paper is similar to the far more colourful tourist editions of other parts of the country. The maps 
are housed in a card sleeve. The smaller text maps are black on the grey outline with four densities 
of regular dot stipple showing altitude. The chosen font lacks weight and, though the amazing 
reduction of detail omits nothing, it is not easily interpreted without magnification. 

The text analysis of the digitally transcribed photographs ‘orders’ the monuments by four main 
shapes: pit, linear, curvilinear, rectilinear. Commission officers have developed their computer 
software over the last decade with the York based workers subsequently surveying the Yorkshire 
Dales National Park and now Lincolnshire. When archaeological detail especially chronology or 
function is used to flesh out the site morphology then that body and this text becomes much more 
interesting. Whether every circular or rectilinear feature of the same size then has the same function 
remains debatable, but that is work we must undertake in the future. Similarly their ‘linear 
enclosure complexes’ usually flank late Roman period roads or tracks though one ladderform 
example from Kilham parish (Fig. 26, 4) is apparently devoid of any routeway at all. Minutia of 
this nature point the way forward, further challenging amateur and professional archaeologists 
interested in eastern Yorkshire. Significantly numerous curvilinear enclosures containing pits have 



been drawn together possibly for the first time; measuring up to 6 m by 4 m some have been 
described as Grubenhauser. If this is the case then our understanding of the post-Roman wold scene 
may be the first to change appreciably. 

This corpus is already a most valuable reference for ‘this unusual part of England 1 as Lord 
Faringdon puts it in his foreword, but why, with completely digitised information, is there no 
interactive compact disc when the opportunity of studying data at a legible scale of one’s choice 
would have been available. The volume concludes decades of research, a great deal of which was 
undertaken by the late Herman Ramm. One wonders why Her Majesty’s Commissioners debated 
or delayed the publication and printing for so long? 

Settle Alan King 

DOCUMENTING THE CULTURAL HERITAGE. Edited by robin thornes and john bold. 
24 x 18 cm. Pp. x and 58. isbn o 89236 543 9. Price: not stated. 

At a time when the heritage is under increasing threat of destruction or of return to its country 
of origin, the development of an internationally agreed standard of documentation is highly desir- 
able. This handbook explains the genesis of three main standards: the Core Data Index to Historic 
Buildings and Monuments of the Architectural Heritage, the Standard for Archaeological Sites 
and Monuments, and the Object id. Examples are given of records prepared to these standards. 

r. van der noort and s. Ellis. 29.5 x 21 cm. Pp. viii and 388. Figs. 129. School of Geography 
and Earth Resources, Hull University, Hull, 1995. Price: £15 (plus £2.50 p. & p). 

Wetland Heritage of Holderness is the first report of the Humber Wetlands Survey, the last of the 
four wetlands projects. The primary aim of the project is to formulate a strategy to manage the 
archaeological and palaeoenvironmental resources, in view of the numerous threats to those 
resources. The coastal erosion of up to 4 km of Holderness since Roman times illustrates the scale 
of these threats. 

The report is split into four sections and reflects the archaeological and palaeoenvironmental 
aspects of the project. Part one provides a general introduction, including the physical background 
and investigation into land use of the region. 

The second section details the palaeoenvironmental study. This succeeds in both unifying pre- 
vious work as well as providing an assessment of the potential of numerous sites in Holderness. 
Separate papers deal with the palynological analysis of the Keyingham valley, and investigations 
into the effects that colluviation may have on the survival and discovery of archaeological sites. 

Part three presents the results of the archaeological survey and consists largely of the gazetteer. 
This combines find spots, find concentrations and sites from previous research and the current 
survey. The presentation of this information in a unified form is to be applauded, but the exclusion 
of the majority of deserted medieval villages and moated sites is puzzling, although the wetland 
potential of such sites is well considered in a separate paper. As with most of the wetland surveys 
the archaeology is dominated by lithic material, with over fifteen times the amount of previously 
known flint work being discovered. This provides the research material that was lacking from an 
area which had seen no previously concerted survey work. An analysis of this lithic material and 
a reassessment of the West Furze site are also considered in this section. 

The final section provides an overview, considering the preservation of archaeological sites and 
recommendations for the management of the wetland heritage. The report identifies landscapes 
and sites of national and regional importance, including two nationally important sites where 
wetland integrity can no longer be guaranteed. These, it suggests, should be the focus of further 
research. On a practical level, the absence of an index can make navigation around the text difficult. 

Wetland Heritage of Holderness is far more than a management document. The survey has 
synthesised previous research as well as addressing those areas where gaps in research were ident- 
ified. In doing so it has also discovered some remarkable sites, notably a Bronze Age managed 



alder woodland (Seaton-3). The report is the product of a team effort which is clearly evident in 
its thorough and well-rounded understanding of wetland issues. 

North West Wetlands Survey, Lancaster Richard Short 

21 X 15 cm. Pp. x and 214. Pis. 14. Maps 34. Oakham: Multum in Parvo Press, 1997. isbn o 
9524544 3 2. Price: £15.95 ( plus £1.50 p. & p. from 6 Chater Road, Oakham, Rutland lei 5 6 ry.) 

The cover illustration of Byland in colour with dark clouds chasing over the hills and the subtitle 
‘The medieval colonisation of the North York Moors’ give a better idea of this book’s contents 
than its all-embracing first title. The main theme is colonisation, either by domestic settlement, 
usually in villages, or by monastic exploitation, normally from granges. The secondary theme is 
the changing appearance of the landscape brought about by woodland clearance or by agrarian 
improvement. The intrusion of industry, albeit modestly in three aspects (ironworking, saltpanning 
and tanning), is another compact theme. The wool trade and the development of coastal ports 
completes the range of studies, all of which are well illustrated by maps and monotone photographs. 
The interplay of change to both the physical and the economic landscape is the cohering factor 
within this book. 

However it is particularly important also to recognise the position of this study within our 
understanding of the medieval landscape. Waites has pulled together a number of articles, the 
latest written over 15 years ago, and combined them in a unified narrative, which stands within 
a tradition of historical geography linked to the teaching of Hoskins and Darby. The author regrets 
that so few others have followed him into north-east Yorkshire. However, academic approaches 
have changed with scholars either looking at the totality of landscape (as in Faull and Moorhouse, 
West Yorkshire: an archaeological survey to ad 1500) or concentrating on the contribution of a single 
Order (as in Williams, An Atlas of the Cistercian Lands in Wales). The bibliography of secondary 
sources stops at 1955 and a brief additional list indicates more recent scholarship such as by 
Donkin, Hodgson and Platt. This book is therefore principally of value for its assemblage of 
previously dispersed studies (including in Y.A.J.) than for pushing forward the new frontiers of 
settlement scholarship. 

University of York Lawrence Butler 

YORKSHIRE DALES. By Robert white. 19 x25.5 cm. Pp. 128. Illus. 89. Pis. 16 (in colour). 
Batsford/English Heritage, 1997. isbn o 7134 75617. Price: £15.99. 

The Yorkshire Dales contains one of the best preserved historic landscapes in Europe. It is therefore 
appropriate that a book on its heritage should appear in the highly acclaimed series produced by 
English Heritage and Batsford. The volume covers a geographical area slightly larger than the 
boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, of which the author is the Archaeological 
Conservation Officer. Yorkshire Dales forms part of the ‘Landscapes through Time’ series and is one 
of the last in a series of very successful popular accounts of archaeology. The text is arranged in 
chapters, which progress chronologically, starting with the geology and ending with buildings of 
the post-medieval period. The final chapter assesses future problems in preserving and conserving 
the Park’s heritage. The book concludes with a Glossary, Places to Visit and Further Reading. 

The volume is very handsomely produced, in keeping with its sister volumes, and is very readable. 
However, this veneer hides a number of serious weaknesses, all of which could have been avoided. 
On their own they would be worrying, but this book is the first general statement on a well-known 
landscape drawn to our attention by the late Arthur Raistrick and it is written by someone who 
has professional responsibility for the management of the archaeological heritage of the region. 
As such the volume will be regarded as an authoritative statement of current knowledge, embracing 
the results of a wide range of work being carried out by many people within the Park. One of the 
main problems is that the book does not accurately represent the current state of knowledge. In 



some aspects it shows a misunderstanding of the evidence. One example is the map of assumed 
medieval townships (p. 64, Fig. 45), placed in the chapter dealing with the Middle Ages. This map 
shows mostly civil parishes of recent creation which are irrelevant for interpreting the medieval 

The author’s professional position ideally places him to integrate information held in the 
National Park’s Sites and Monuments Record and to gain access to the mass of mostly unpublished 
material produced by many individuals and organisations working within the Park, much of it 
funded by the Authority. Sadly this integration has not happened. The discussion of field barns 
(pp. 75-77) is an example: by using a planning document as the basis for study the author overlooks 
the vernacular characteristics, the long continuity of use and the landscape setting. It is far better 
to rely on the two chapters on Dales barns given by Marie Hartley and Joan Ingleby in their Dales 
Memories , pp. 36—70. 

The division of the chapters into a chronological framework also causes unforeseen difficulties. 
While the presentation of such a wide body of material is fraught with inherent problems, it would 
have given a firmer foundation for future study if major themes such as administrative units, 
settlements, field systems and communications had formed the subject of the chapters. This would 
have emphasised the modern view of looking at landscapes rather than perpetuating the traditional 
archaeological view. The problem is that we really do not know the date of much of what lies 
within the Dales landscapes. Much of the recent work has been built around chronological frame- 
works and diagnostic period plan types developed by Dr Raistrick over 50 years ago. This has 
created a number of problems, particularly those associated with the glut of settlement plan types 
loosely termed ‘late prehistoric/Romano-British’ and the imprecise application of the term ‘co- 
axial field system’. This volume perpetuates philosophies of landscape studies that should now be 
recognised as part of the past progress in developing our understanding of the heritage of the Dales. 

The importance of detailed field surveys is paramount for the interpretation of the historic 
landscape, with its wide ranging components from earthworks to standing structures. The wealth 
of preserved landscapes of all periods in the Yorkshire Dales makes the region ideal for understand- 
ing their development, many of the results so far obtained having national implications. Regrettably 
much of the recording being carried out in the Dales is insufficiently perceptive to obtain the 
fullest understanding, as can be illustrated by the recent survey of the second preceptory site at 
Penhill in Wensleydale, which is far more extensive and multi-phased than is indicated on the 
illustrated plan (p. 58, Fig. 40). It must be recognised that, although Dales landscapes are very 
well preserved and highly photogenic from the air, they do contain a mass of subtle detail which 
cannot be seen from the air or be revealed by the standard of survey work currently deemed 
acceptable by the Park authorities. The growing problem, which is of more than regional concern, 
is a lack of appropriate field experience by the recent surveyors and a similar lack of training in 
those whose task it is to monitor such surveys. 

The volume also displays another disturbing but growing trend: the use of other people’s unpub- 
lished work without permission. A book covering this breadth of subject will necessarily synthesise 
the work of others and this is duly acknowledged in the book. However, when most of the book 
is based on the unpublished work of others, often in substantial quantities, then it would have 
been courteous to seek prior permission. This was not done in a number of cases, leading to an 
imperfect volume. Had the author consulted those people mentioned in the Acknowledgements 
and asked others with long term experience of the Dales historic landscape to read relevant 
chapters in draft, then the volume would have been much improved and would have given a more 
accurate overview of current research. 

As well as these general concerns, the volume contains an unusually high number of minor 
inaccuracies, many of which would have been picked up by readers. For instance, the sunken 
garden at Castle Bolton lies west of the castle and not east of it (p. 66). William’s Hill at Middleham 
is a ring-work and not a motte and bailey (pp. 53, 121). Georgius Agricola’s De Re Metallica was 
published in Switzerland, not Germany (p. 80). The misconception that buildings like Nappa Hall 
and Walburn Hall are fortified manor houses is perpetuated (pp. 67, 10 1). Nappa Hall lies 20 
metres south of an overlooking scar, from which would-be attackers could lob boulders with their 
hands onto the top of the eastern tower! Walburn Hall in its present form is most unlikely to have 
been fortified (p. 67); its buildings are in urgent need of a modern survey to reveal what is clearly 



a long and complicated development from the Middle Ages. Both the houses are surrounded by 
extensive earthworks, recently surveyed, which will allow the structural remains to be placed more 
confidently in their landscape setting and will avoid hasty conclusions about building dates (p. ioi). 
The excavated Roman hypocaust at Middleham (p. 42) has been looked at unscientifically many 
times since it was first uncovered and recorded in 1881. However, detailed fieldwork now suggests 
that there is a strong Roman presence centred on Ulveshaw, but that the earthworks around the 
hypocaust do not indicate a conventional villa. Well preserved Roman landscapes are only now 
being recognised through total landscape survey, rather than by the traditional method of looking 
for diagnostically Roman features. 

The author’s professional position has enabled him to utilise much of the material collected for 
the Sites and Monuments Record, through his own encouragement and curatorship. However, 
many of the book’s problems arise from the way in which the Yorkshire Dales National Park 
curates and manages the heritage of the park area. The volume may stand for many years to 
come as the only introductory statement for the general reader. Yet what is needed for the future 
is a programme of work, involving in a fully co-ordinated approach all those working on this 
unique landscape. It is hoped that the reception which this book receives will prompt the Park 
Authority to rethink the way in which it approaches its responsibilities to the historic heritage. 

Batley Stephen Moorhouse 

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